Science Weekly: Total Eclipse

Photo: NASA


He describes it as “deep twilight” with a “deep gray purple sky,” when David Baron talks about his first experience seeing a total eclipse. It was February 1998 and Baron had travelled to Aruba on the advice to, at some point in his life, see a total eclipse in person.

Almost two decades ago, this spawned the idea for Baron to write a book about eclipses. Finally, that book will be published in summer of 2017. To write American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World, Baron researched the last major total eclipse in the U.S. on July 29, 1878.

Thomas Edison was just 31 years old and a recent celebrity as inventor of the phonograph when he tagged along for an expedition in the wild west to view the 1878 eclipse. Maria Mitchell was there as well, the best known female scientist in America at the time and who in 1847, discovered the first comet. These researchers and more were present to witness a brilliant natural phenomenon right after the centennial of the nation.

Once every 18 months, somewhere on the planet there is a total eclipse. But it’s only every 400 years that any given point on the earth will see the full shadow of a total eclipse. So to be in a place to view how the moon blocks the sun in its entirely — except for its edges — is a rare feat not to be missed.

On August 21, 2017 a total eclipse will traverse the entirety of the U.S., the first in 99 years to do so. Baron will be in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to view it. Where will you be?

Learn more from the American Astronomical Society here.

Drawing from the July 29, 1878 total eclipse