March 27, 2024

Darkness at noon

Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you probably know there's a total solar eclipse coming up on April 8. As this article at details, it will be (weather permitting) one of the longest, darkest, and most spectacular solar eclipses in hundreds of years, as well as one of the longest and darkest. The eclipse will affect the entire United States to one extent or another, and because the path of totality passes through so many large cities from Texas to Maine (including Dallas-Fort Worth, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, and Montreal), it will be the most-watched ever in North America.   

The totality path runs right through Indiana—it'll be about 99.8 percent total where we live—and there's a tremendous amount of excitement around here; we've been getting all kinds of emails from places ranging from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Santa Claus, Indiana, offering deals for people to plan their eclipse viewing.* Warby Parker is offering free solar eclipse viewing glasses from April 1 until the big day, stores are selling Total Eclipse t-shirts, and Delta has a special flight scheduled from Austin, Texas to Detroit, flying along the path of the moon's shadow. Even where the eclipse isn't total, people are excited; eclipses come and go every few years around the world, but this one does seem to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

*Remember, it's dangerous to look directly at a solar eclipse, yadda yadda.

There was a similar sensation back on March 7, 1970, when a total solar eclipse occurred through Mexico, the South and along the Eastern seaboard. That was called the "Great Eclipse," with a period of totality lasting up to three minutes and ten seconds—this one will be the longest in the United States since then. And because it happened on a Saturday, the networks offered live coverage as the eclipse made its way across the country. It would be the first time this kind of an event had been covered on live television (It was something of a bomb, since the weather along much of the path was cloudy; let's hope for better weather this time.)  

To see what it was like experiencing the Great Eclipse, here's the CBS broadcast from March 7, anchored by Charles Kuralt, with correspondents posted along the path of totality. (At the end of the recording is ABC's coverage of the October 16, 1978 total eclipse, which crossed from the Pacific Northwest down through Texas.) Even though the weather didn't cooperate, it's still an awesome sight; especially the speed with which the sky brightens after the totality passes. There's also a nice moment 43 minutes in, when the experts mention the date of "a very good one, a relative of this eclipse" that will be coming up in April of the year 2024; that must have seemed an awfully long time in the future, back then. 

If the upcoming eclipse is half as spectacular as we're being told, it should be unforgettable; hopefully, it might also serve to remind people that such wonders of the universe don't happen by chance. TV  

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!