Shadows, passing moon, a darkening sky. Even though it’s ten degrees cooler my dress is sticky with sweat. I’m holding up a bright yellow Cheerios box that reflects the sky since I didn’t order solar eclipse glasses in time (you can’t see it with the naked eye–you’ll go blind). When I look inside the box, I see a little orb of whitish blinding sun glaring at me from the back of box; I see a black dot, the Moon! inching across the orb.
The Solar Eclipse: when the homewrecking Moon passes between Sun and Earth.
Some parts of the country saw the solar eclipse in its totality. Others, only partially. If you google solar eclipse, you’ll find a ringlet-of-fire-looking thing–the sun’s corona–staring back at you the way it did in my textbooks. That’s what the people in its path today saw. Alas, I didn’t, not in its entirety. Taken from the small cut-out opening, this picture shows the blurry partial eclipse seen from my location. The sun looks, ironically, like a little moon where the moon passes over.
Like seeing science in the flesh. I remember the first time I peered into the telescope to see a massive spotty Jupiter staring right back. I experienced less an epiphany than I did surprise: I knew the planets were there, but they’d always been more…conceptual to me. Science had always been removed by textbooks, grades, illustrations to recreate. Earth was a plastic globe spinning on my pre-k teacher’s desk–according to her, it rotated constantly, and I imagined it spun on its own at night. In physics, in astro, I memorized definitions, calculated coordinates, listened to songs about stars in the sky, but I didn’t always get it, just regurgitated for the grade.
But for a moment, today, I got it. The sheer coolness of solar eclipse wasn’t so much about it being the first in several years (there’ll be another in 2024), or the well-publicized hype. It was more of a small a-ha moment, when things clicked in my head, when textbook definition met astro illustration met real life demonstration. Like in the fourth grade when I watched vinegar and baking soda bubble volcano-ey; like in sophomore Chemistry when my teacher said, “there’s no such thing as cold, only the absence of heat”. Like the moment I understood that basics and acids, when combined, neutralize to create salt and water. Quirky instances of science that, at some point, sunk in beyond the understanding-for-a-grade level.
And today it sunk in–the light-spitting corona; a massive crater-riddled Moon. Us, wee little people, pointing paper glasses towards the sky, oohing and aahing on a (carbon) coughing-sputtering earth.