Today, many people across the United States will be preparing for the first total solar eclipse in 99 years.
Random fact of the day: Prior to becoming a police officer I was actually pursuing a career as an astronomer. Now, even though as fate would have it, I have spent my entire adult life thus far in law enforcement, I have never lost my love for space or the mysteries universe. As captivating as today’s solar eclipse is, there is an even more fascinating and mysterious event that will occur today. An event that I am willing to bet most people are completely unaware of.
The media has done a phenomenal job ensuring that the American people consider that gazing upon the today’s eclipse is equivalent to looking at the face of God. Essentially, the media has successfully inspired the belief that even a quick glimpse of today's celestial events could result in someone’s eyeballs suddenly bursting into flames.
As exciting as this may sound, there is one thing that no media or news agency has shared with the public. Frankly, it is far more intriguing than the thought of your neighbor being reduced to a pillar of salt because the allure of just one peek at the alignment of the sun and moon are far too much to pass up. In actuality, the most incredible and mysterious event that many Americans will experience today is the fact that a solar eclipse occurs at all.
The sun’s diameter is 400 times larger than the moon. Coincidentally, the sun is 400 times farther away than the moon. Because of the harmonious relationship between the alignment and size of the sun and moon, the two celestial objects appear as the exact same size when viewed from earth. Hence, the entire reason that on rare occasions we on Earth can witness the amazing spectacle of a total solar eclipse.
What makes the similarity in the size of Earth’s moon and the sun so remarkable is that nowhere else in our solar system or in the known universe does this occur. In fact, based on what we presently know about the universe and astrophysics, the statistical likelihood of a planet having the same relationship between their moon and a nearby star is the equivalent of someone winning the lottery…twice.
Basically, for all intents and purposes, a total solar eclipse occurring naturally in the universe is a virtual impossibility. However, as many today will experience, clearly the impossible is actually possible.
Now, interestingly enough the moon is not in a complete fixed distance rotational orbit around the earth. In fact, because of the tidal interactions with earth, the moon actually moves approximately one inch away from the earth annually. In terms of the relationship of the sun and moon, what the moon’s slow movement ultimately means is that in the very distant future a total solar eclipse will be something that doesn’t exist.
In fact, for those who are alive today to experience this natural impossibility, you join the ranks of only 50,000 other future generations of human beings that will ever have a chance to see a total solar eclipse. Granted, since it will roughly be around the year 50,002,017 when the Earth’s last solar eclipse occurs, there is a whole lot that could happen between now and then.
Heck, 50 million years from now human beings could have long since wiped themselves out thanks to our thirst for warfare and ecological destruction. In truth, we may have already succeeded in wiping out all life forms by then. However, then again, 50 million years ago, the dinosaurs had already gone extinct and yet dogs, elephants, lemurs, bears, rhinoceroses, ostriches, hawks, eagles, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, and early primates successfully roamed the earth. All of those species are still hanging on, though admittedly humans are working hard to try to obliterate them from the planet. Either way, who knows maybe we’ll get our act together and Humans in some form will still reign on Earth 50 million years from now.
Now, when it comes to today’s solar eclipse, all of us should take a brief moment to consider just how remarkable it is to simply be able to experience it. We all should consider that under the confines of science, mathematics, and astrophysics, today’s eclipse shouldn’t even occur.
We should take a moment to appreciate the fact that, in the most literal of senses, we are alive today and have the opportunity to witness a miraculous and unnatural event. Most importantly, today represents a day when we as human beings are reminded in spectacular fashion that indeed nothing is actually impossible.
Ultimately, maybe that is the entire reason that approximately once a lifetime, we have the rare opportunity to observe a total solar eclipse.
As improbable as the entire occurrence might be, maybe the real message isn’t about the science, but rather it is in the message. itself. Maybe the message today is that we become so easily consumed by the routine confines of life that we assume some aspects of life are concrete and unchangeable. However, in reality, our existences as individuals and as a collective are never completely static.
In closing, it doesn’t matter what place you find your life is at this moment. Every day after August 21, 2017, you will no longer be able to ever say that anything in life is truly impossible. On this seemingly random Monday in August, you will indeed witness the possibility of the impossible.
Ironically, all things considered, I have to muse over today’s solar eclipse. Maybe, all the media stations have it right. Given the implication of staring at a solar eclipse without proper eye protection, coupled with the mathematical impracticality of it even occurring; maybe the face of God actually will descend upon the earth today.
I know one thing for sure. You cannot tell me that is an impossibility.