Nothing prepares you for a total eclipse. Then, nothing prepares you for your first volcano, geyser, tornado, hurricane, or earthquake, either. Words fail when forced to describe natural phenomena that engage all of the senses.
Words are enough to relate the science of an eclipse. The moon passes between the earth and sun, and blocks the sun for a brief moment. Even though the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, it’s also about 400 times closer to Earth than the sun.
From earth’s position, the sun and moon look to be approximately the same size. The moon, therefore, perfectly blocks the sun when it passes between the sun and us. The moon completely darkens the body of the sun, leaving the corona exposed. The moon crosses the face of the sun in what seems like a brief moment. In the most recent eclipse, totality (the moment when the sun is completely blocked by the moon) only lasted about 2 ½ minutes.
Those are the facts, a pitiful left-brain explanation for a right-brain experience. The swift drop in temperature, the silence of the birds, and the gradual dimming of the sun until it blinks out for too brief of a time; none of these things can adequately described. Simply put, the eclipse has to be experienced to be perceived.
I took photographs, several hundred if I am not undercounting. Photographs are inadequate as well. But, they do give me a way of remembering how I felt standing in the elementary school grounds in Ravenna, Nebraska, sharing this brief glimpse of the universe with a few hundreds of my awed kinsmen.
Ted Lee Eubanks
24 Aug 2017