Let’s Talk with Tina Whittle

The Eclipse
By Tina Whittle

On August 21, 2017, the world will end when the giant cosmic snake of darkness eats the sun and the universe goes dark. Unless of course the evil is thwarted and the sun vanquishes the shadow and returns to its right and good fullness in the sky.

Spoiler alert—I’m betting on the sun. I have inside knowledge that it’s going to triumph and human life will continue on this planet. But if you’d like to watch the cosmic battle yourself, you’d better start preparing now. Because here’s another prediction pretty much guaranteed to come true—you are not going to be the only one watching, and traffic is going to be terrible.

Photo by Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be

I’m talking about the upcoming total solar eclipse, of course. And while there are many mythic explanations of why an eclipse happens, and what ill tidings it might bring, the science of it is very simple. A total eclipse occurs when the moon appears to completely cover the sun. Of course the sun is larger than the moon, but because the moon is much closer to Earth—around 239,000 miles away as opposed to the sun’s 93,000,000 miles—it is just the right distance away to line up every eighteen months or so in a way that blocks the sun’s face, either completely or partially.

The upcoming eclipse will be a total one for people in the “path of totality” a 70-mile-wide swath of territory cutting across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. An early twilight will descend. Temperatures will fall. Streaks of light called a corona will appear around the sun (as in the above image). People just outside of the totality zone will experience a partial eclipse, which should still be an awesome sight, even if it doesn’t feel like the ending of the world.

If you’re interested in checking out how close you’ll be to the path of totality, NASA has provided a handy map at its website: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/. The site also includes viewing information—like the fact that you should never look at a solar eclipse with the naked eye, not even for a second—and other interesting scientific and historical facts about the event.

As for me, I’ll be watching the skies on August 21st with my family, our newly purchased eclipse-viewing sunglasses on our faces and cool drinks in hand. We’re all pulling for the Sun to win, yet again.