Post-eclipse Reverie

Our country’s residents have experienced the highly anticipated 2024 total solar eclipse. Many observers of the long awaited event exuberantly pronounced it “life changing.” 31.6 million US residents live in the path of totality and millions more journeyed into the path. This was the second total solar eclipse to occur in the lower 48 in less than seven years. We must wait until 2044 for a similar astronomical spectacular when three astronomical bodies, Sun Moon, and Earth, are aligned with similar precision in relation to the North American continent.

Network television coverage often referred to the 2017 total solar eclipse and compared it with 2024. Both eclipses were mesmerizing, but there were a few more superlatives in 2024. Observers at the Earth’s surface were treated to totality which lasted about twice as long. Our lunar companion possesses a slightly elliptical orbit, resulting in increased apparent lunar size when the moon’s orbit is closer to Earth. In 2024 the moon was 4000 miles closer to Earth than in 2017. This slight difference in apparent lunar size provides for greater solar coverage and a longer time of totality. 

It is possible that the sky was darker in 2024 for a number of reasons. In 2017 we journeyed to totality in Carbondale, IL, and were somewhat surprised that totality produced deep twilight but not total darkness. In the days since 4/8/24 we discovered that people at the center of the path of totality experienced deeper darkness than people at the outer edge of the shadow. Dozens of YouTube posts recorded the thrill of the total eclipse experience for hundreds of people who experienced “an awesome few minutes” in person.

Other differences were well worth noting. The Sun’s corona, the glowing hot gas disc surrounding the Sun, is visible only during a total solar eclipse. Observers stated this corona was brighter and more beautiful than the 2017 event. This eclipse corresponded to the approach of a solar maximum when sunspots increase and the sun’s magnetic polarity reverses. This results in “dramatically more” intense auroras (northern lights) in the northern hemisphere.

Many television networks covered eclipse events as the umbral shadow raced southwest to northeast across our land. We found these broadcasts to be helpful in visualizing what we were unable to see in person. Included in the network programs were live shots of the progress of the moon as it gradually obscured the sun. When the sun was completely covered, we saw the beautiful corona and several bright spots around the circumference—solar flares we could not see in 2017. The diamond ring and Bailey’s beads phenomena were visible, however. Many observers noted a drop in temperature and changes in the behavior of animals.

Many personal reactions were offered in the dozens of YouTubes posted following the actual event. They reported how members of the public reacted to the spectacle:….an out-of-this-world experience….incredible….a surprising sense of zen….a visceral feeling….amazing….a spiritual experience….jaw-dropping….coolest thing I’ve ever seen….phenomenal….felt closer to God….my heart and soul were full….mother nature is beautiful….celestial event for the ages….we hit the jackpot….we’re still in awe.

Our personal reactions to the 2017 total eclipse we eyewitnessed in Carbondale IL and the reactions of 2024 eclipse watchers who viewed the event on a television screen at home were similar. Total eclipse events, especially those witnessedin person, inspire deep personal emotions. From our post of 8/23/2017 we gleaned the following phrases and terms:…an “Everest” experience…an incredibly ordered world…electric with excitement…reverential awe of cosmic orderliness…provided reverent wonder…experience of patient anticipation…profound and powerful personal emotions…nature displays God’s glory in meaningful ways…superlative event…we give glory and praise to God… gave glory to the God of Creation.

David, the author of Psalm 8:1 states “…You have set your glory above the heavens.” The same author declares in Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Readers of scripture and observers of the heavens may now affirm the truth of these verses in a uniquely powerful way. 

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