Unless you have been camping in the woods for the past six months – and if you have, I want to hear about it – we are going to have an eclipse on August 21.
And it’s a huge deal.
Of course, those of you who know me realize that I think it’s a huge deal for all the wrong reasons.
I am all about celebrating a celestial event that comes along once in a lifetime – actually, if you wait until 2024 and are in the right spot, you could make it a “twice in a lifetime” eclipse – but where the solar eclipse craziness hits is where my path of totality parts with a lot of folks.
On the one hand, I’m thrilled that so many are intrigued by a solar eclipse and that half the world – according to area media – will be descending upon Mid-Missouri.
But on the other hand, every time I hear something along the lines of the group who wanted to do a midday fireworks show to celebrate the eclipse I want to smack them with my telescope.
Oh, yeah – I’ve got a telescope and on a good, clear night with a full moon, I can actually find the moon. Once in a while, like this last spring, I could actually get lucky and find Mars and Mercury.
OK, you probably don’t realize that this month’s solar eclipse is one of only 17 major solar events of 2017. But I didn’t see anyone planning parades, concerts and booking hotel rooms in late March when Mercury, Mars and the crescent moon made a pretty cool triangle. Not only was it a cool thing, it gave us a good look at Mercury – which amateurs like me don’t see all that often. Didn’t realize that innermost planet is so shy? I didn’t think so – you’re too busy planning concessions for a simple eclipse.
But Mercury is fascinating if for the simple reason that we don’t see it too often because of the glare of the sun.
What I appreciate about the Totality of media sunshine on the eclipse is that it just might steer a few more young people towards science classes and science careers. And maybe, just maybe, we will get a few lines in newspapers everywhere about Venus and Jupiter aligning – hooking up? – in mid-November. This will be another “solar event” as the two planets will align in the eastern sky just as the sun comes up.
OK, I know. Few folks want to get out of bed at 5 a.m. to see two planets get together as the rooster crows at daybreak.
Why does a simple eclipse get parades, fireworks and special reports on the news?
I’ll tell you why – it’s easy.
The solar eclipse is a long event – it will begin getting dark late in the morning and stay dark for hours – with totality lasting a few minutes. It happens when everyone is otherwise going through a normal day.
Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, it’s a simple, yet fun-to-watch, trick.
Of course, I’ve been called out for my solar eclipse cynicism at a few community meetings. One friend noted that I would not likely be taking the day off to “celebrate” the eclipse.
Uh, no. But I did find a way to join the Totality Insanity: As announced at several community meetings, parking spots at the Boone County Journal parking lot will be for sale on August 21 for $25 for the day – plus, with your parking spot, we will mail you the Journal once a week for the next 52 weeks.
OK, seriously – the solar eclipse can be enjoyed from your backyard and if you want some company, there will be a good-sized crowd at the high school athletic field. Complete with bathrooms and concessions.