On Aug. 21, the United States will see a solar eclipse and it apparently is a very big deal.
But is it really?
On this day, the moon will pass in front of the sun and completely obscure it. The entire country is supposed to get dark, and in a 70-miles-wide path across the continental U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina, it will be a total eclipse. This means that it will go from daylight to twilight quickly, the birds will start singing like it is night, the temperature will drop and that Bonnie Tyler song will be played over and over on the radio.
People are spending a lot of money to rent spaces in the path of the eclipse and to buy special eclipse glasses, and the whole thing is getting a lot of attention. I have friends who are traveling to see the eclipse, too.
I remember how big of a deal it was when there was the last total solar eclipse in the U.S. in 1979, and still today I think it’s interesting. At the same time, though, there are too many things that I don’t quite understand about the whole phenomenon. Here are a few:
- An eclipse is a great and historic thing to see, except for that you can’t actually look at it. Don’t hype up something for several months and tell me how amazing it is but then say I can’t look at it. That just makes me want to look at it even more. It’s like if I was on a diet (I’m not) and my wife made me doughnuts (yes, please). I have very little willpower, so it’s going to be tough not to look at the eclipse. I’m not supposed to look directly at the sun on most days but I still do that, just like I stare at light bulbs. Maybe this is what happened to the dinosaurs. They all looked at an eclipse, went blind and then became extinct.
Would it really make you go blind? There are lots of things that people say will make you go blind, and I can tell you that it’s not true for everyone. I do have contacts, however.
- Pinhole projectors. I didn’t understand this in 1979, and I still don’t today. Ok, so I can’t look directly at the sun, but I can prick a hole in a piece of paper, have the sun shine through that hole onto a second piece of paper, and then I can look at the sun shining through that hole onto the second piece of paper. Why would anyone want to do that? I must be missing something here. They told us about this in school in 1979 and I keep reading about it today, but I don’t understand it at all. It would be more fun to just make shadow rabbits on the second piece of paper.
- You can also buy special eclipse glasses and hope they don’t make you go blind, or you can wear a welder’s mask. I feel stupid wearing 3-D glasses at the movies and they give me a headache, so I can’t see me spending a lot of money to wear eclipse glasses or a welding mask for about 30 seconds or until I get bored with looking at the eclipse. Where would I get a welding mask? You know if I buy a welding mask, I’m going to have to buy a blowtorch or something like that, too, just so I don’t look stupid.
- Is it safe to look at a photo of the eclipse? I honestly don’t like to look at them.
- If you can’t look at the sun, I guess you just enjoy the eclipse by seeing how dark it gets outside. Doesn’t the same thing happen when there is a big storm and there are a lot of clouds? Why is this so exciting? I saw a nice cloud eclipse just last week. And doesn’t it happen every night, too?
- While this eclipse only happens once every so many decades, it seems like something like that happens every month or so. Seriously, you constantly read about things that only happen once every 100 years or so involving the sun, moon, stars, comets and whatever else is in the sky that you won’t want to miss. On Aug. 11 and 12, for example, the U.S. is supposed to have a rare meteor shower that you can’t miss. Later in the year, something will be happening with planets that are more visible than usual and there will be something else amazing that probably has not happened since the invention of the toaster. One important fact to remember about all of these items is that even when I look for them, I can never see them in the sky, as I can’t tell a star from a planet or a plane.
- What if you are riding in a Mitsubishi Eclipse on Aug. 21 but your moon roof gets stuck closed so you can’t see anything? The irony would be rich.
- Or what if just hold up a Moon Pie in front of my eye so it blocks the sun? Will I hurt my eyes or just get hungry?
- I will try to notice the Aug. 21 eclipse and I am happy for my friends who are traveling to see the total eclipse. And I understand that I may be missing something here, because an awful lot of people seem pretty amped up about the whole thing. I guess that all I can now is to wait and not see what happens.