April 13, 2024

Why you owe it to yourself to witness the April 8 total solar eclipse

If you haven’t experienced a total solar eclipse, you haven’t lived.

On Monday, April 8, an incredibly rare and spectacular experience will be offered to hundreds of millions of people across North America.

Most will miss this and instead catch a glimpse of a partial solar eclipse many hundreds of miles from where the action actually happens – the path of totality.

For many, a journey along the path of totality will be impossible, with work, school, family commitments or the inability to travel hampering their ambitions.

Millions of others, however, will be – and probably already have been – dissuaded from embracing the April 8 total solar eclipse due to the media’s growing obsession with traffic, safety and weather.

Yes, traffic can be terrible before, during and after the April 8th total solar eclipse. Eclipse glasses – including free pairs – may be in short supply at that time, raising concerns about safety. It may be cloudy, blocking the view. After all, it is April. All of this can happen. How can the sight of the moon crossing the sun make up for all this fear and confusion?

That’s it. This then It is. America needs a complete makeover.

Nothing to fear

The endless articles about the risks, inconveniences, and hassles are designed to address your existing fears about the approaching eclipse.

You’re forgetting why all these risks, inconveniences and hassles exist – and why, in the long run, they’re totally trivial. “It’s the most awe-inspiring sight you’ve ever seen in your life,” said Dr. Tyler Nordgren, an astronomer based in Ithaca, New York, author of Sun Moon Earth and eclipse artist at the Space Art Travel Bureau, in an interview.

He is referring to the few minutes of darkness during a total solar eclipse, during which it is possible to take off your eclipse glasses and gaze with the naked eye at the Sun’s tenuous outer atmosphere, normally flooded with light from its surface. There is nothing more beautiful in nature. “This moment of totality is so brief, so fleeting, so precious – don’t take your eyes off that crown for a second,” Nordgren said. “The stunning visual spectacle evokes a sense of wonder in itself.”

Why waste this gift?

Trivia questions

It’s inevitable that you’ll hear more about worst-case scenarios surrounding the total solar eclipse than you do about reasons to try it. This is because most journalists don’t understand enough about total solar eclipses to convey their rarity and brightness. Many seem unable to give even basic advice about the importance of staying within the narrow path of totality.

Consequently, the three trivial issues are discussed incessantly: traffic, lack of safe eclipse glasses, and likelihood of bad weather.

People are in traffic every day. Eclipse glasses are always out of stock just before an eclipse. Clouds can disappear precisely because of a solar eclipse.

The weather only has some relevance because totality is so spectacular, but it is often framed in terms of “should you be worried?” Yes, you definitely he must brother. “All clouds are driven by warming of the ground, so if the ground cools, clouds can dissipate,” said Jay Anderson, meteorologist and eclipse chaser at Eclipsophile. “What surprises people is how quickly it can disappear – it can even go from 70% cloud cover to 1% in the space of five to 10 minutes.”

Listen only to experts

Experienced eclipse chasers roll their eyes at the lack of understanding about what’s really important in a total solar eclipse. They’ve seen it all before, from ophthalmologists who say you shouldn’t look at the fully eclipsed sun with the naked eye (you he must!) to TV presenters who claim their city will see “90% of totality” (there is no such thing!). The logic they often offer is that there’s no point fighting traffic to visit the path of totality when you can get 90% of the experience by staying in your backyard. They have no idea that a 90% partial eclipse is a 0% total eclipse. You are either on the path of totality or you are not. It’s not a sliding scale – it’s an in or out scenario.

It is this misrepresentation of the path of totality that will undoubtedly rob many of their lives on April 8th. This path will be about 185 kilometers wide and will stretch from Mexico to Canada, passing through parts of 15 US states. If you are off the path, you will only see partial stages. You can check exactly where you need to be using this interactive map, this eclipse simulator, and this eclipse search.

If you hear advice not to bother visiting the path of totality, immediately conclude this: this person knows nothing about total solar eclipses.

Connection and joy

All that media bluster surrounding total solar eclipses fades away as the last drops of sunlight disappear through the valleys of the moon, and the world around you darkens dramatically in just a few stunning seconds. Being in a crowd of people in the moment and in awe, like you, is a very special experience.

“Part of the appeal of a total solar eclipse is this connected feeling of joy,” Nordgren said. “The communal nature can make awe even more powerful and memorable.” Perhaps more than anything else, totality puts your place in the universe into perspective. Maybe it’s this frightening prospect of depth that makes people look for excuses to miss it – like traffic, safety and weather.

No regrets

Have you ever known someone who traveled the path of totality on August 21, 2017 to see the “Great American Eclipse” and regretted it because of the terrible transit that followed? I doubt it. Traffic congestion is expected to be a major problem, especially on interstate highways. In fact, traffic impacts could be even greater than the 2017 eclipse due to the increased number of large metropolitan areas near the path. Ideally, those traveling in the path of totality should arrive a day or two early and plan to stay another day afterward. Daytime visitors should prepare for heavy traffic and allow extra time during their trip.

If that puts you off, you misunderstand how irrelevant it all will seem on April 8th, when you join the minority of humans who have already experienced the wonder of a total solar eclipse.

“What do you say to a skeptic? It’s so hard because it’s hard to describe. It’s a feeling. I was surprised,” said Trish Erzfeld, director of Perry County Heritage Tourism in Perryville, Missouri, and chair of the Missouri task force on the Great North American Eclipse of 2024. “People ask me why I’m working so hard for 2 minutes. and 40 seconds, but it’s not really the minutes and seconds we’re working with. These are the times of life that we inspire.”

Worth Any Sacrifice

So wait in traffic, camp or sleep in your car, eat simple foods for a few hours to get to the right place at the right time, and then go home. Any money and time you spend, the effort you expend and the temporary discomforts you may have to endure – all of this will be worth whatever small sacrifices you have to make.

For the ephemeral nature of totality and the sense of wonder it evokes is priceless. “Experiencing a total solar eclipse does not require scientific knowledge,” Nordgren said. “It just requires you to be there.”

A path of totality will reach North America on April 8. You owe it to yourself to be in it.

For the latest information on all aspects of the April 8 total solar eclipse in North America, check my main feed for new articles every day.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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