If you haven’t heard about the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, you must be on vacation from all news sources. Not to be confused with the Great American Cookout, which started in April and goes through November, the Solar Eclipse will last about two minutes. If you live in Hopkinsville, KY, you’re in luck. That’s where it will last the longest, two minutes and 40 seconds. It will take ninety minutes to cross the U.S. on a path from Oregon to South Carolina.
What’s going to happen? Basically, the moon will get between Earth and the Sun. Depending on where you live (or travel to), you’ll see either the total eclipse (along that path from Oregon to South Carolina) or a partial. Where I live in west Michigan, we’ll see a partial. Think of a “fingernail” moon and that’s what we’ll see of the sun as the moon’s umbra (shadow) covers it. Like the one just to the left of the total eclipse below.
|copyright: Fred Espanek|
Exciting, right? We’re all going to rush outside to look. Right? Wrong. Unless you protect your eyes. Retailers all over the country are offering “eclipse” glasses for sale. Be sure they are safe or you could lose your sight.
Myths and Superstitions What could be scarier in ancient times than the sun disappearing? They had to come up with a reason. Like mythical figures eating or stealing the sun. In Vietnam, it was a giant frog, while the Norse blamed wolves for eating the sun. The Inuits thought the sun and moon were fighting. In Hindu mythology, the god Rahu devours the sun to stifle the light that provides life. Nasty guy.
The worst superstitions have to do with pregnant women. In fact, with prior eclipses, pregnant women were told to stay indoors. The Aztecs believed the eclipse might turn fetuses into mice. Yikes! I might have grandmice instead of two healthy boys. (In case you didn’t know, my daughter-in-law is expecting twins in November.) According to Mexican and South Asian myths, cleft palates are caused by the eclipse. Not so. Scientific evidence debunks those stories.
But one thing is true. Looking directly at the eclipse can damage your eyes. You can make a pinhole projector or buy special glasses. The following warnings are from the article on pinhole projectors.
§ Never look at the Sun directly without protective eye gear. Even sunglasses cannot protect your eyes from the damage the Sun's rays can do to them.
§ Always keep your back towards the Sun while looking at a pinhole projection.
§ Do not look at the Sun through the pinhole.
By the way, this is the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in ninety years. So unless you plan to live a long, long, long time, it’s best to see it on August 21st.