March of the Solar Moon

Yes, I’m aware that the post title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense … unless I give you some context.

This Sunday, I’m going to southern Utah to watch the annular solar eclipse in its entirety. Well as “entirety” as it gets in our neck of the woods, since the sun sets just before the eclipse ends (but really, we’re only going to miss about 20 minutes).

For the last week or so, I have woken up and headed out to the car to drive to work. I get up pretty early–between 5 and 6. I’m out the door well before sunrise, generally speaking.  One day early last week, when I was driving in to work a little later than normal, I could see an almost full moon just getting ready to set on the western horizon, while on the eastern horizon, the sun was already threatening to crest the tops of the still-snow-capped mountains.

This morning, I saw the moon directly over head as i left around 5:30. It’s in its waning crescent phase, and it is marching towards its inevitable encounter with the sun this coming Sunday afternoon/early evening.

It struck me that this cyclical phase the moon goes through–the rotation around the earth once every 28 days (for the sake of discussion, anyway) … and this collision course with lunar and solar alignment in just such a locale that I only need to drive 4 or 5 hours … this is why I love science–specifically, astronomy. Today, anyway. I love watching documentaries as a general rule. Anything to further learning. 🙂

But I digress.

This morning, it struck me that I am going to witness an incredible spectacle on Sunday. This is going to be an awesome event! I even rented a high quality lens to make sure i get good pictures. How often does one get to say, “Yah, I saw an annular eclipse today.”?! I’ve read of people whose lives were changed after seeing events like this. The sheer grandeur of the confluence of celestial bodies in just such a perfect alignment; the awe-inspiring vision that presents itself as the moon blots out 95% of the sun; the day that turns to night, then back to day … all in a matter of minutes. How could one NOT be struck by something like that?

Then there’s the Venus transit on June 5th. Another incredibly rare event. So rare, in fact, that it happens twice every 110-125 years. Unfortunately, this transit is the last one until December 2117, at which point most anyone alive right now will be dead.

August 21, 2017 will see a full total solar eclipse pass through North America, the center of which passes right through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, southern Idaho … well here–see for yourself. The path cuts through THE ENTIRE CONTINENTAL USA. I can’t wait for that one. It’s going to be awesome.

April 8, 2024 will see another total solar eclipse, this time passing over Niagara Falls. Seriously? Can we say “photo op”?

But for now, my heart is already in southern Utah. Sunday morning cannot get here soon enough. Gonna have to start making a playlist for the trip. Obviously Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Ozzy’s Bark at the Moon, CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising,” Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” and whatever else I can think of. Spotify to the rescue!

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