Eclipses are amazing and beautiful. I witnessed the 1979 total eclipse in Williston, North Dakota, as well as partial eclipses before and since. . Such an event is worth your time and effort, and I am hopeful that this one will inspire an increased interest in science. That’s the good part.
But I am concerned that the reported traffic congestion, lack of accommodations and the hordes of hopeful eclipse watching pouring into small towns across the country will result in a less than happy experience. And instead of blaming the over-exuberant media that hyped it, disappointed observers will blame astronomers and science in general.
And then some will miss it altogether by the actions of ill-informed and over-protective parents and school administrators. I know of schools here in Colorado where students will be prevented from even going outside during the eclipse, with or without the special glasses. I even heard the mother protesting these restrictions claiming that she wanted her child to see this amazing event because it would grow as dark as night, she claimed, even in our roughly 90% totality. As one who has seen a similar eclipse, I assure you that it does not grow “dark as night” even in the path of totality. (It will be like a fairly deep twilight, with brighter skies around the horizon.) Here in northern Colorado it will perhaps grow as dim as an overcast day, but hardly dark. There is just so much misinformation and so much being taken out of context.
Let us hope that I am wrong and everyone has a good, educational experience..
But the really annoying aspect is coming from the wingnuts predicting the end of the world (again), the dangers of lizard men, massive power failures or even the appearance of the fictional planet Nibiru that supposedly will crash into Earth 33 days after the eclipse. Then there are less dire but no less absurd claims of a new level of cosmic consciousness or other such mystical woo woo.
Now, I am hopeful and even confidant that the majority of Americans won’t buy into this weak-brained nonsense, but given our current political situation it is very clear that many are swayed by sensational claims, vacuous promises and irrational ruminations.
So please folks, enjoy the eclipse, and help others realize that it is a perfectly natural and predictable event, useful for inspiration as well as scientific interpretation. It is not a religious sign, a mystical portent or anything to be feared. Let’s hope that people can all grow up a little.