Experiencing the Eclipse
Last night we broke away from dinner to watch the unusual eclipse. (Yes, that is a chicken bone in Bryles’ mouth!) The children were thrilled to watch the moon’s dark, full shape travel in front of the sun. Donning polarized glasses, they each took turns viewing the progress. “It looks like a smile, mommy!” said our neighbor’s son enthusiastically.
All sorts of other wonderful questions sprung to mind for the children, and we found ourselves in long conversations about topics such as the size of the sun or the orbits of our planet and the moon. The eclipse provided a practical visual of such scientific facts, making it much easier to explain the truths of our mysterious universe to the little ones.
However, there were questions even the adults could not answer. When Bryles asked, “Why did the sky not go black, mommy?” I told him I’d have to do some research.
Later, I found an article explaining why our sky only faded to grey. Ned Potter of ABC explains, “Because the moon, constant in size as it may appear to us, does not move in a perfect circle around Earth. Its orbit is slightly elliptical. On average, it’s about 239,000 miles away, but at its closest it comes within about 225,000 miles of us. At its farthest — as it was today — it’s a little more than 250,000 miles away. It’s just enough of a difference so that the moon will only cover 88 percent of the sun.” (via ABC on May 20, 2012)
We’d heard that this annular eclipse would almost totally cover the sun’s face. We all took turns watching and waiting for the moment that the moon would move fully in front. “Annuls” is Latin for ring, and some called the annular eclipse a ring of fire. It was truly a flaming eye!
I’d read in the Press Democrat that the Director of our local Planetarium said this event rarely happens. In fact, the last similar eclipse was in the 1800′s and the next eclipse like this would not take place until the mid 2200′s. I took the opportunity to bask in the unusual shadows, while noting that many unusual universe events occurring in my lifetime. I saw Halley’s comet as a child, I danced under the galactic alignment of the “age of aquarius” (Mars, Earth, Sun, Mercury, Jupiter aligned in 2007) in college, and now this!
The light was dizzying and our excitement left us feeling elated. Read more about this rare eclipse here.