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Solar Show: the August 2017 eclipse

 

On August 21st, 2017, millions of people in the United States viewed a total solar eclipse, the first in nearly a century to cross the entire country. Social media still buzzes with excitement and #2017SolarEclipse photos; websites still vibrate with news.

The eclipse enthusiasm swept the U.S. for months previously as people determined how best to view the solar event. They purchased special viewing glasses, constructed projectors, and planned to drive to completely different states. For 90 minutes on August 21st, they waited and watched, intent on the sky. A temporary phenomenon united people all over the country in one quest: to see the eclipse.

Let’s take a closer look at the details of an eclipse.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Association) says “an eclipse takes place when one heavenly body such as a moon or planet moves into the shadow of another heavenly body.” From Earth, we can observe two different types of eclipses: lunar and solar. Neither is common, and both are visually impressive. A lunar eclipse takes place when the earth moves between the moon and the sun, while a solar eclipse (the type that just occurred) takes place when the moon orbits between the sun and the earth. Depending on the location, this can completely cut off the sun’s light from the earth. Fortunate viewers in the path of totality were able to experience this on the 21st and were wholly astounded.

Unfortunately, more than astonishment and awe can take place during a solar eclipse. Another possibility is severe eye damage, even to the point of blindness. When the sun’s light has not been completely obscured by the moon, its rays can seriously impair a viewer’s eyesight. The eclipse page created by NASA says “the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as ‘eclipse glasses’ or hand-held solar viewers.” Those who don’t have the glasses can create their own projectors or try the pinhole projection method. This consists of piercing round holes in a sheet of paper and letting the eclipse’s light shine through the holes onto another piece of paper. The light will form crescent-shaped shadows on the paper. One can also see the crescents projected on pavement as the eclipse rays slant through tree branches.

 

Many photographers choose to capture these events through their cameras, which can turn out very well, but can still be dangerous. It’s not safe to look through a camera lens at the eclipse, unless it’s covered with a solar filter, as it doesn’t provide enough protection.

Basically, a solar eclipse is extremely rare, notably dangerous, and terrifically exciting to watch. Subsequent to its conclusion, Americans are wondering when the next eclipse will occur, particularly those who viewed it from outside the path of totality. According to the Washington Post, “The United States will see its next solar eclipse on April 8th, 2024.” However, this one won’t travel across the entire country; it’ll stretch northeastward from Texas to Maine. Pack away the projectors carefully, those of you in the East/Central zones; you’re going to want them in seven years.

On August 21st, millions of people stood awed and astonished, staring and snapping photos, as the solar eclipse dimmed the country for 90 minutes. An article from the Washington Post says after the eclipse in Oregon (within the path of totality) “People hugged, or traded reactions in hushed, awestruck tones. More than one person’s voice choked trying to describe what they had just seen. Most preferred not to talk at all.”

Although not everyone thought of the event as such, the solar eclipse was quite simply a wondrous moment in God’s creation. As it shone and darkened and shone again, it presented the United States with a beautiful testament to His power and glory.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” -Psalm 8:3-4.

 

“What is an Eclipse?” https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-is-an-eclipse-58

“How to View the 2017 Solar Eclipse Safely.” https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

“The solar eclipse transformed America, at least for a few moments.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-solar-eclipse-transformed-america-at-least-for-a-few-moments/2017/08/21/a58dde3a-8671-11e7-961d-2f373b3977ee_story.html?utm_term=.75ee00792be5

“Missed the solar eclipse? You won’t have to wait too long for the next one.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/08/23/missed-the-solar-eclipse-you-wont-have-to-wait-too-long-for-the-next-one/?utm_term=.5ad8d9afd5ff

“Psalm 8:3-4.” English Standard Version. https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/psa/8/1/s_486001

Featuring the photography of Maria T. Copeland.

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