Sunday, 20 August 2017

2017 American Eclipse

Solar eclipses are not rare events; in fact a total eclipse of the sun occurs at least once every eighteen months. They don't always occur in the same place though and a single spot on the earth will experience totality only about once every three to four hundred years on average. I've never seen a total eclipse although there have been two in Oxford that have been close to total in recent decades, 1999 and 2015. Tomorrow there will be an eclipse that will be called "the Great American Eclipse" because its route looks almost designed to provide the best view from within the United States of America. The USA is still one of the most powerful and influential nations on earth, therefore this eclipse is being widely publicized. It will begin at dawn in the central Pacific Ocean and will head for the US west coast appearing first in Oregon at 9.05 AM local time, that's 5.05 PM British Summer Time. The path of totality will be a seventy-mile-wide corridor running from the Pacific North West and Rocky Mountain states of Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming; then into Nebraska, Missouri and through the Deep South states through to the Atlantic coast at Charleston, South Carolina. A person standing still at sea level will experience two minutes and forty seconds of totality. Outside the totality zone the eclipse will be a partial one to a greater or lesser degree. It will be visible from northwest Europe only as a bite-sized partial segment just before sunset. The cause of a solar eclipse is very simple; the moon travels between the sun and the earth blocking out some or all of its rays. The experience is like night suddenly falling for a short time; no longer than seven minutes thirty-two seconds. It's easy to work out when eclipses will occur in the future by calculating the movement of the moon and sun with the rotation of the earth, see:

However, for superstitious people, the experience of an eclipse can be frightening and loaded with meaning, usually malevolent. Eclipses have been responsible for hysteria, mass-panic, belief that the world has ended and multiple suicides. The USA in the early 21st century is sadly not immune to this and there almost certainly will be some kind adverse action tomorrow afternoon for particular kinds of people, especially in rural and insular areas of the country where the Bible and the gun still rule as the twin pillars of civilization. It doesn't help that the first place in America to see the eclipse is called Salem. This is an infamous name in American history because in 1692 there was a trial in Salem in which twenty people were convicted of witchcraft in a scene reminiscent of medieval Europe. Most of them were hung from trees and the others died in prison. This crime took place in a different Salem though; one in Essex County, Massachusetts on the other end of the continent; the Salem that will start the eclipse lies near the coast of Oregon. Nevertheless the same name alone might be enough to convince some Americans that this is the date chosen by God to initiate the Last Days as foretold in the Book of Revelations. Who knows what people in that state of mind might do? As a result the emergency services and National Guard will be on standby, especially in and around Salem. Many Americans are followers of Wicca, a neopagan religion inspired by ancient pre-Christian British rites. The eclipse is called the "Black Moon" in Wicca and it is very meaningful spiritually, but not necessarily bad. Source: The same goes for its significance in astrology, see: The focus on the United States with this eclipse may be a portent for radical change in that country, perhaps it is connected to the rise of Donald Trump and the "2016 Effect", see: This is also the day that the first commercial flight will land at St Helena Airport, although the eclipse will not be visible from the island, see: Noon on that same day has also been chosen... coincidentally, for the moment when Big Ben's chimes stop for about four years of building work, see: There are many public events, street parties and other celebrations to mark the eclipse. I hope my American readers all enjoy it. Be careful not to look at the sun without one of the safe viewing methods, see: Also tune into Space Weather on the HPANWO Show on HPANWO Radio for a complete report next Thursday, see links column.

No comments: