Sometime during the morning of August 21st, millions of Americans will crowd toe to toe on a narrow ribbon of land stretching across the continental United States for the opportunity to stand in the moon’s full shadow for two minutes.
I am not sure, but I think this is the celestial equivalent of traveling to Disneyland and waiting in line 90 minutes for a 30 second thrill ride inside Space Mountain.
These adventurous people, seeking a very singular life experience, will look up into the morning sky when the all of the incandescence and summery heat of the sun has been unnaturally extinguished and witness a mystical solar corona.
I will experience a Corona too. But I will be drinking mine. From the comfort of my home in New Jersey.
And if it is cloudy that day, I may even experience two Coronas, smugly secure that I did not miss anything.
For those of you like me who failed Astronomy 101, this unique event is called a solar eclipse. It occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun obscuring it from view.
And if you look up at the darkened sky at just the right time, when the sun has been fully replaced by the disc of the moon, you will witness an earthly event like no other.
Of course, if you look at the wrong time you will burn your eyeballs in their sockets and go blind.
Fortunately you can buy attractive eye wear to safely view the event in its entirety. These trendy cardboard glasses can also be used for welding, watching 3D movies, and—if you buy them from a comic book—looking at people’s bones through their clothes.
But to experience a solar eclipse fully, in totality, you have to be in just the right place. And if you don’t live in the right place, you have to drive there. Along with everybody else.
That is why millions of Americans will be jumping in their cars and clogging all possible roadways to every single town littered along the narrow umbral path all the way from Oregon to South Carolina.
And don’t be late. Because if you miss it you will have to travel more that 2,000 miles an hour to catch up with the traveling shadow as it streaks across the American heartland.
This particular eclipse has been given a name: The Great American Eclipse. Because the last time a total solar eclipse transversed the US was in 1918. Which makes this event almost as rare as the Cubs winning the World Series.
I didn’t get to see that great event in person either. But I watched it on TV.
And fortunately The Great American Eclipse will be broadcast too. NASA will livestream the event from unique vantage points from earth as well as space. Which means that the rest of us can ironically experience the eclipse safely inside where we will be hidden from the moon’s shadow we are trying to experience outside.
I don’t know if there will be play by play commentary from Neil deGrasse Tyson or not.
But according to those vain Carly Simon “umbraphiles”, who think nothing of flying a Lear Jet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun, a totality event cannot really be seen; it must be experienced. Because as the sun is eerily taken from the sky, strange things happen. The day plunges into darkness, stars appear, the air grows cool, spectral shadow images shimmer, a green coronal glow forms a ring in the sky, grown men weep, dogs howl, birds go silent.
Perhaps the president will even stop tweeting.
But if the history of the world is any guide, the other-worldly experience comes at a price for those under the path of the vanishing sun. Food can be poisoned, babies born with hideous deformities, and dark plagues initiated. Even the King of England can meet his demise.
Of course The Great American Eclipse could very well fall under the category of fake news, generated by modern-day Galileos who foolishly believe the earth revolves around the sun. These are probably the same heretics scaring us with absurd falsities like global warming.
Consider this. Conspiracy theorists say that the Great American Eclipse is just a cover for a much darker event: the end of the world. Because thirty-three days after the sun is erased from the sky for a couple of minutes the mysterious Planet Nibiru will start it’s fateful trajectory on a collision course with earth annihilating everyone on the planet.
Given the alternatives, staring at the sun doesn’t seem so bad.
Still, I think I will take my chances as the moon throws some shade my way from the comfort of my home far away from the trendy crowds and doomsday scenarios.
Besides, I couldn’t find a hotel room anywhere.
Let’s make the Great American Eclipse great again.
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