Eclipse of­fered a rare glimpse of some­thing higher

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION -

Mon­day was a day of pri­mal ex­pe­ri­ence, as mil­lions of Amer­i­cans stared at the sky, the awe of the heav­ens black­ing out the noise of our dis­con­tent.

From coast to coast, peo­ple wit­nessed a so­lar eclipse of a mag­ni­tude not seen since World War I.

Peo­ple trav­eled thou­sands of miles, stayed in ho­tel rooms booked more than a year in ad­vance, paid for lawn and field space on ranches and farms to get the best seats along the path of to­tal­ity that stretched from Ore­gon to South Carolina.

In other re­gions, in­clud­ing south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, view­ers wit­nessed a cres­cent sun in a re­ver­sal of roles with the moon.

And every­where, peo­ple gath­ered on rooftops, in park­ing lots and on col­lege cam­puses to be a part of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

The last time a to­tal so­lar eclipse oc­curred in the skies over the U.S. was in 1979, but only a part of the North­west had to­tal­ity.

There has not been a coast-to-coast event since 1918.

Another one won’t oc­cur un­til 2045.

NASA so­lar physi­cist Alex Young said the last time earth­lings had a con­nec­tion like this to the heav­ens was dur­ing man’s first flight to the moon, on Apollo 8 in 1968.

The first, fa­mous Earthrise photo came from that mis­sion and, like this eclipse, showed us “we are part of some­thing big­ger,” the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

Al­though the Earth, moon and sun line up per­fectly ev­ery one to three years, briefly turn­ing day into night for a sliver of the planet, the phe­nom­e­non is rarely vis­i­ble to the masses.

And this was the first such oc­cur­rence since the dawn of the so­cial me­dia era, caus­ing an as­tro­nom­i­cal shar­ing of Mon­day’s pic­tures, videos, and com­ments.

For the 90 min­utes it took the shadow of the moon to travel across the coun­try, blot­tin­gout the mid­day sun for about two won­drous min­utes at any one place, it was the most-ob­served and most­pho­tographed eclipse in his­tory.

NASA re­ported 4.4 mil­lion peo­ple were watch­ing its TV cov­er­age mid­way through the eclipse, the big­gest livestream event in the space agency’s his­tory, AP re­ported.

“It can be re­li­gious. It makes you feel in­signif­i­cant, like you’re just a speck in the whole scheme of things,” said a vet­eran eclipse-watcher, Mike O’Leary of San Diego.

“It’s one of those phe­nom­ena you learn about in sec­ond grade and only get to see pic­tures of in text­books,” said Jes­sica Nor­ris,a grad­u­ate stu­dent, watch­ing with 1,500 peo­ple at West Ch­ester Univer­sity.

“The sec­ond grader in us is in­ter­ested to see it.”

Marc Gagne, an as­tron­omy pro­fes­sor at WCU, ex­plained why a rare eclipse of the sun is fas­ci­nat­ing.

He said the an­gu­lar size of the moon is ex­actly the same size as the an­gu­lar size to the sun.

“When the sun, earth and moon formed, the dis­tance be­tween the moon and the earth was just right so that to­day we can ob­serve a to­tal so­lar eclipse,” he said.

“That’s the fun co­in­ci­dence.”

Eric Lorgus, who drove 600 miles from West Ch­ester to South Carolina to wit­ness the so-called to­tal­ity, com­pared it to man land­ing on the moon.

“It re­minded me of the sul­try night in July 1969 when Neil Arm­strong took his first steps on the moon,” he said.

“My pickup truck was parked on the banks of the Oc­toraro Creek. The truck ra­dio crack­led with voices com­ing from the bright spot in the sky above.

“Could those voices re­ally be com­ing from so far away?

“Could that dot that dark­ened the sun be that same moon?”, he wrote in a let­ter to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia.

Hyp­notic, spec­tac­u­lar, sa­cred, mes­mer­iz­ing were among the words de­scrib­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Few ex­pe­ri­ences in our con­flicted world to­day match those lofty ob­ser­va­tions.

The eclipse of 2017 was a phe­nom­e­non of the nat­u­ral or­der of things, a rare op­por­tu­nity to lose our­selves in a won­der of the uni­verse.

For one day, peo­ple fo­cused on a higher plane of unity in­stead of in the di­vi­sive trenches we too often oc­cupy.

And, in the words of Lorgus, it was well worth it.

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