Sunday, August 20, 2017

It's Not A Bird Or A Plane And You Shouldn't Be Looking At It Regardless!

In case you haven't heard, there's an eclipse today! But of course you’ve heard—how could you miss it in this day of the 24/7 news cycle? Every channel and every social media feed has been counting down to it breathlessly. Our clockwork universe has its cycles and seasons, and those who watch the skies have known this was coming (just like the know when the next one will be, and the next).

The science of it is very simple. A total solar 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 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, and we are suddenly standing in its shadow.

The upcoming eclipse is getting an especially large media presence because here in the US, it is making itself know from coast to coast. The “path of totality” includes 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. People just outside of the totality zone will experience a partial eclipse, which should still be an awesome sight.

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: 

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.

Some other sites to help you out during this, the day of the Great American Eclipse:

Another prediction pretty much guaranteed to come true? There will be lots of traffic. Get the scoop of the state of your route with Google’s handy traffic density predictor covering the entire path of totality. 

Can’t get outside to see it? NASA has you covered. They’ll be live streaming it from twelve locations, including some cameras on planes and hot air balloons, so you’re guaranteed to get a front row seat. 

Not sure what the event will look like in your neck of the woods? TIME magazine has created a simulator that allows you to punch in your zip code and glimpse what the event will look like second by second from where you’re standing. 

Forgot to get eclipse-viewing glasses? Don’t care to look directly at a flaming ball of gas that could blind you? NASA also explains how to make a simple viewing device that creates a pretty cool effect all on its own. 

And if you still manage to miss it somehow, take heart—there will be another one coming soon. Here’s a list: 

Regardless of how the eclipse fits into your day, do take some time to appreciate the science and storytelling happening around this astrological event. Fingers crossed I’ll be seeing some of you in the shadow of the moon.

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