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2017-09-07 17:44
By Richard Ruffin



Lately, I have been watching the daytime sky go suddenly dark.  I have seen a dark spot crawl across North America like a giant blob. I have heard a thousand different voices; oohs and aahs from a thousand different people as they witnessed the Moon obscure the Sun.  

I have vicariously visited almost every state in the line of totality, seeking to take the pulse of America.  I have heard distinguished utterances from the mouths of people such as Neil de Grasse Tyson, and at the same time heard the cries of teenagers with nothing more to look forward to than a long drive home.  I have witnessed the battle between the Sun and the Moon from cameras wearing dark glasses, from cameras with filters, from hot air balloons high in the heavens, from the International Space Station, from commercial airliners eight miles high, from private airplanes three miles high, from the beach, from the desert, from the cool forests of the Pacific Northwest, from the Basins and Ranges of the Great American West; from the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the blue grasses of Kentucky and the Atlantic coastline of America.  I have listened as people explained that this was their eighth, ninth, tenth or eleventh total solar eclipse, and I have had to bite my lower lip in shame. There are a lot of serious shadow hunters out there. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.

What this eclipse has taught me is that maybe there is a God, after all.  Take the size of the Sun, for example.  It is four hundred times larger than the Moon.  But the Sun is also four hundred times farther away than the Moon. That means, to the observer, that the Moon is apparently the same size as the Sun.

But this will not last forever.  Half a billion years from now eclipses will be no longer, as the Moon grows a few inches more distant from the Earth each year, and in due time, the Moon will not darken all of the Sun.  All things must change, or so sang George Harrison.

Speaking of George Harrison, another posse of Brits wrote a song about a place that has been the object of myth since people first discovered it existed.  Pink Floyd produced an album called "Dark Side of The Moon." 

The heavens show only one side of this celestial body to us earthlings. That the Earth's revolution, along with that of the Moon, are choreographed so that the Moon never shows her dark side should make even the most ardent atheist believe in intelligent design.

Watching the crowds swell to witness the Moon gobble up the Sun has been quite educational for Yours Truly.  Listening to untold people cry for joy while a couple of celestial bodies battle it out for supremacy has been equally  enlightening.  One hears a lot of "Oh my Gods."

What all this tells me is that life is short, at least on the geological scale of things. Eclipses will come and go, but they are not here very often, and they seem easier to miss than to attend. That is why it is important that you make it to the next one, especially if it is in your neck of the woods.

Life is amazing, isn't it?



Richard Ruffin writes from  Brazil. Write to rick.ruffin@gmail.com.

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