A bit of Synchronicity: it so happens that well before I heard about the total eclipse of August 21, 2017 (and as the background image of this site would suggest), I had concocted a fictional and anomalous eclipse for my W.I.P. I even set up a Google alert for the keyword “eclipse,” which is where I first came across mention of the big 2017 event—the first total eclipse to cross the entire continental U.S. in almost a century.
The upshot, I’ve been reading and reading and reading about eclipses. I ordered our glasses months ago—good thing!—and read up on how to view the eclipse safely when you’re outside the path of totality, as we are here in southern Oregon.
So I’m all set to walk to a local park on Monday morning. My biggest worry right now isn’t cloudy skies so much as smoky skies. Wildfires in Oregon and California have smoked up the Rogue Valley so badly I can’t see Grizzly Peak, and there’s no sign of rain in sight, only record-breaking heat.
But thank God for the internet. If visibility goes down the toilet, I’ll go to the NASA website to watch the live stream there, or to eclipse.stream.live.
And no matter what, I’ve got all the great articles I’ve collected. So rather than get my knickers in a twist about visibility issues, I thought I’d share some of my favorite eclipse-related articles—fun reads before or after the Big Event.
I think it only fitting to begin with a piece about how the first peoples in this land experienced eclipses, and what it meant to them. First published in May 2012, this Indian Country Today article explains how and why some native cultures viewed eclipses of both sun and moon as evil omens, and showed respect by staying inside until they passed.
Of course in our web-connected world, the best place to go for anything eclipse-related is probably NASA’s own special 2017 Eclipse site. Besides links to live streaming (and no doubt videos afterwards), there are links to dozens of eclipse-related articles.
You can really go down the rabbit hole here, so set aside a few hours!
Unfortunately, some of the cool and strange things described in this Cnet.com article will happen outside totality, so I may not experience them first-hand, but they are amazing, notwithstanding.
And they’ve given me all kinds of fictional ideas!
4. The total solar eclipse may break internet records — here’s how web companies are preparing for the crush
Whether viewing on- or off-line, you will be participating in what experts think, according to this Business Insider, may well be “…the most-viewed event in human history. Record numbers of people are expected to photograph, share, and watch live video feeds of the eclipse online.”
Will the internet break as a result, they ask?
“These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can
reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself
scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
friendship falls off, brothers divide: in
cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in
palaces, treason; and the bond cracked ‘twixt son
Eclipses ( like comets and other uncommon celestial events) were in earlier days often interpreted as portending some great event, usually not so good. This National Air and Space Museum articled gives a brief overview of two such great events that occurred—and were interpreted—in the light of a contemporary eclipse.
Native Americans weren’t alone in their unease about eclipses. The always fascinating Atlas Obscura, in keeping with their mission of highlighting the strange and little known, tells us that “global eclipse mythology features a rogues’ gallery of moon thieves and moon-hungry behemoths. Meet a few of them now, and remember their audacity the next time you gaze up at an eclipse.”
And just in case it wasn’t clear from the above articles, a folkorist at The Smithsonian is here to remind us that “Across multiple cultures…a darkening of daytime skies provokes a foreboding of evil” and that pre-modern interpretations of eclipses “may include a monster devouring the sun, a punishment from the gods for human errors, and a prelude to apocalypse.”
Not that some of us don’t think times are getting dark enough as it is…
We 21st century folk may be clogging the highways as we go madly eclipse-hunting, but it would appear from our reading thus far that there were few pre-modern cultures that really enjoyed eclipses. According to another article at The Smithsonian website, “because eclipses were considered by ancient civilizations to be of such grave significance, it was of utmost importance to learn how to predict them accurately. That meant avidly monitoring the movements of the sun, moon and stars…”
And thus was born rudimentary Astronomy.
Returning to our own chronological backyard, Space.com has a very cool gallery of historical photos of eclipses from the last century or so. I think my favorite is the photo of the phases of a partial solar eclipse above Washington, D.C., in March 1970.
A little spooky, that.
Speaking of Native Americans and historical eclipses, I think my all-time favorite eclipse-related historical event is the story of Shawnee leader Tecumseh, his brother (known as “the Prophet”), and the eclipse of 1806. It’s so cool, I don’t want to give anything away.
Read about it for yourself at Indian Country Today.
In case, God forbid, you’re clouded out of the 2017 Eclipse, and are wondering where you need to go to catch the next one, the calendar site TimeandDate.com lists both solar and lunar eclipses up through 2199, including eclipse times, paths, phase animations, maps…the whole shebang.