The VIEW from here
I like to consider myself a bit of an astrological enthusiast, although I tend to be preferential to science fiction rather than just science. I’m impatient. I can’t wait for science to catch up to the fiction of space travel, sentient robots that want to eliminate all organics, incorporeal phosphine aliens whose physiology is based on some ridiculous element like xenon.
On August 21, for one night, I won’t have to rely on either my imagination or those of esteemed science fiction writers. For the first time in 99 years, a total eclipse of the sun will be completely visible across the entirety of the continental United States. The sun will literally disappear from the sky, from California to New York, Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. It’ll be as if night descends in the middle of the day — the eclipse will last about two-and-a-half minutes as the celestial phenomenon travels from west to east and will reach its apex at 2:27 p.m. here in Michigan.
But if you’re anything like me, you’re not going to be content just to watch from the friendly confines of the mitten state. That’s where the “Path of Totality” comes in, the vast swath cut across the country that defines where the eclipse can be seen in its full grandeur. Starting in Oregon, the path takes a lazy arc southeastward, meandering toward the east coast before sloping downward and cutting through South Carolina. Here in Michigan, well north of the Path of Totality, we’ll only experience roughly 70-percent coverage, a difference that has been described by astronomers as “astronomical” (which I’m fairly sure is their attempt at humor). The phenomenon will be one for the record books. A simple Google search reveals dozens and dozens of towns along that Path of Totality, from major tourist locations like Charleston,
South Carolina to tiny bedroom communities in rural Kentucky that have been trying to capitalize on the eclipse for years now, offering viewing parties, deals and anything under the sun (which, yes, pun intended) to frustrating levels.
My lady and I have been trying to plan a trip around the eclipse for months, scoping out pretty much every hotel from Eugene to Savannah, lamenting the often double or triple rates on August 21. We’ve settled on Greenville, South Carolina — but don’t tell anyone.
It’s only March, so it’s likely that you’ll forget all about this column by the time August rolls around, but you’ll certainly remember something is supposed to happen when you start seeing the sunglass-wearing public standing around in their yards staring at the sky. A few of you will of course assume alien invasion, which is certainly a defensible assumption, but when the lights turn out on the country for a few minutes, it’s best to be prepared. Remember do NOT under any circumstances stare at the eclipse with your bare, unprotected eyeballs. You can buy those papery sunglasses the eye doctor gives you after dilating your pupils for $1, so make the investment.
I’m not counting the days or anything, but you only have 21 weeks, four days, and depending on when you read this, only a handful of minutes before the show. In the meantime, I’ll be playing Mass Effect: Andromeda and wondering what secrets the stars really hold.