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Facts and Myths Regarding A Solar Eclipse

August 15, 2017
by Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

We've been hearing about the 'Great American Eclipse' for at least a year, but the closer Monday, August 21 gets, the more you hear about it on the television, the radio and if you Google the 'Great American Eclipse,' you will get 43,700,000 results.

With so much information available to us, I thought it would be fun to see what I could find for facts and what is myth. We know that ancient people saw the world from a different viewpoint than we do today, so it is only logical that a total solar eclipse then would have a much different meaning that it does for us today.

No matter where you live in the lower 48 states, you will be able to see a partial blocking of the sun. Media and scientists are calling it the 'Great American Eclipse' and the timing is down to the millisecond.

It has been 99 years since a total solar eclipse crossed the continental U.S. On June 18, 1918, a total eclipse crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic beginning in Washington and traveling to Florida with an average duration of five minutes. The path of the eclipse on August 21 is roughly the same. Beginning in Portland, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PST, the eclipse will follow a path across the country ending in Charleston, South Carolina at 1:17 p.m. EST, to many it will feel like someone just turned off the sun in the middle of the day. The duration of the eclipse this year will on be about two minutes and 40 seconds.

History has taught us that for many years, eclipses were thought to bring death, destruction and disaster. It seems that different cultures explained a solar eclipse differently: Vietnam - a giant frog devouring the sun, China - a celestial dragon lunched on the sun, Korea - mythical dogs were trying to steal the sun and Greece believed an eclipse signaled that the Gods were angry and it was the beginning of disasters and destruction.

People across the world would bang pots and pans, making loud noises during a solar eclipse. It was believed that making loud noises scared the demon causing the eclipse. More recently, in February 1831, a slave known as Nat Turner witnessed a solar eclipse and took it as a sign from God to begin an insurrection against slaveholders.

Even today, superstitions survive. Solar eclipses are thought to be dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn children. Young children and pregnant women are asked to stay indoors during an eclipse in some parts of the world.

People across the world have different reactions to this incredibly rare phenomenon in nature ranging from awestruck, silent wonder to weeping uncontrollably and screaming. Whatever your reaction will be remember, anyone who has witnessed a total or even partial solar eclipse will agree nothing else compares to this wondrous phenomenon in nature.

As for the facts of a solar eclipse, it occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. Daytime will become as night when the moon completely blocks the sun leaving a dark hole. Along the path of totality, there will be a 70-mile wide path of complete darkness. Moving west to east, the full shadow of the moon on the ground will be racing toward the next location. The moon's shadow moves faster than the speed of sound (over 1,000 mph). Take note of the animals around you, daytime animals will get ready to sleep; nocturnal animals will be waking up. All of nature will be mixed up during the eclipse.

Be sure to REMEMBER: the only time it is safe to view a solar eclipse with out protection is during the totality. If you are not in the direct path the eclipse will take across the country, you must wear eye protection or use a projection. A partial eclipse still emits tons of ultraviolet radiation and it will damage your retinas.

It is up to us, the parents and grandparents, to ensure today's children have the opportunity to see this truly remarkable Great American Eclipse of 2017.



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