Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In the Path of Totality

The coolest thing about our cruise was that it included a diversion off course to line up for the total eclipse of the sun that took place on November 14 (Australia time--Nov. 13 in the US).  We didn't sign up for the cruise because of the eclipse, but when we found out it was happening, we were pretty excited!  Neither of us had ever seen a total eclipse before, just partials.  Well, we soon found out that many people on board were huge eclipse freaks--chasing eclipses all over the world!  Several of our newfound friends had witnessed more than one total eclipse, some 7, 8, 10, 14 events!

The ship maneuvered into the best possible location and the weather was gorgeous and clear.  Here are some of our friends gathered and waiting for the show to begin.

Goofy eclipse glasses are a must!  You know you can't look directly at the sun--didn't your mom tell you that a thousand times?!

We had lunch with this couple one day--Tracy and Nick. They are big world travelers and very friendly.

The biggest fun while waiting for the eclipse was people-watching.  We have a ton of photos of our fellow passengers! 
According to National Geographic, "Solar eclipses have been recorded as important events by humans for millennia. References have been found in some of our earliest texts, including ancient Chinese academic documents and even a line from Homer's Odyssey that declares, 'The sun is blotted from the heavens.'"

 Beginning to get dark

During totality, the only visible part of the sun is its corona, the normally unseen outer atmosphere that shimmers in the darkness like a fiery ring.  A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon's apparent diameter is larger than the sun, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across the surface of the Earth and we were right there!

When the sun went away, the air got a lot cooler all of a sudden, too.  It was quite an eerie and fascinating event!  National Geographic:  "Over time the phenomenon has been seen as both fascinating and terrifying, a signal of the displeasure of the gods, or an omen of bad things to come." 

Many people call this a life-changing experience. I can't say that I felt that strongly, but it does make you think about your place in the universe and the interconnectedness of everything there is.  I felt very small in the grand scheme of the world and in awe of the way the universe works.  Can you imagine living in the days when no one knew the science behind an eclipse?  They often thought the world was ending; people would kill themselves or "go crazy."  I can understand why they might feel so terrified if they had no clue about what was happening.

After the eclipse, the captain came out and mingled with us for a few minutes, amidst applause for his great job getting us to the location with no problems.  He seemed very excited, too.

Our "Solar Flairs" group met afterwards for a champagne toast to the amazing experience we'd just shared.

A total eclipse occurs every one or two years, while total and partial eclipses together average about two and a half incidences per year. But because they are visible from such a small area on Earth each time, the chance of observing a total eclipse from any single spot is less than once in a lifetime.  Supposedly only one in 10,000 people has witnessed such an awesome sight. 

Click here for a little video from ABC News.  In case you are intrigued, the next US total eclipse takes place on August 21, 2017, most visible in Christian County, Kentucky.  See you there?

1 comment:

Suzassippi said...

Well, given that Kentucky is my next door neighbor, I just might make that one. I can celebrate leaving MIssissippi, as in 5 more years, I can retire. :)