Science and Wonder in the Eclipse

Science and Wonder in the Eclipse

Hello Rebel, and welcome back to my life.

A few days ago, my family and I piled into our car and drove for half an hour to visit their school, and specifically, the mountain that it sits on.

We went to visit it because the sun was about to go out. It was the day of the total eclipse, which was first going to be visible here in Oregon, where we live.

The sun is such a constant presence in our lives and in human history. It’s sustained life since there was life on Earth to sustain. So it’s no wonder that so many people gathered, here and around the country, to watch as it vanished into darkness, even if only for about a minute.

I was struck by how different this scene must have looked from eclipses that happened centuries or millennia ago. Ancient priests used to frighten the populace by promising that the sun would be destroyed unless they obeyed. And in cultures that didn’t have their astronomy so worked out, how terrifying must that have been? You’re just going along, having a perfectly normal day, when suddenly the sun just … vanishes.

But the incredible advances of science through the centuries haven’t only let us predict exactly where and when such eclipses will take place, but have given us the framework to understand that such things aren’t the act of some vengeful god, but are natural occurrences to be treasured instead of feared. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less incredible to see.

I’d heard a lot about how amazing it was to witness an eclipse. How it’s a momentous event that sticks with the viewer for a long time afterwards. And to be honest, I didn’t totally get it. I mean, it was an eclipse. The moon blocks the sun. I’ve seen lots of pictures of what it looks like. How incredible could it really be?

And then, suddenly, it happened. In glorious detail that my camera can’t even really capture here. The entirety of our massive, unimaginably powerful star, blocked out of sight, our only proof of its existence a thin corona of light, like a crown in the blackness. The air grew cold and a wind blew across the mountain. And suddenly I knew what the hype was all about. This was something poets would talk about, something writers would spend hundreds of words and fail to capture, as I’m failing to capture it now. No one cheered. We all just sat in hushed, silent expectation. Even my kids, who, let’s be honest, like to make noise, just watched it happen with their mouths hanging open in awe.

And then it was over. Ever so slowly, the moon began to slide out of the way, and the world became bright again. The eclipse was over, not to be seen again for years. Except, not quite over. As I walked away, I noticed an odd light pattern on the ground—thousands of little crescent shapes splayed across the road. And then I realized that each one of those crescents was a miniature picture of the still-happening, partial eclipse—like the leaves above us had formed thousands of little pinhole box viewers for the remainder of the event.

Nature is incredible, Rebel. And the science that allows us to predict and understand it is incredible, too—but not so amazing that it blocks out the wonder of the universe we find ourselves in.

Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you on Friday. Byyye.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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