Corona, Libya, 29 March 2006; photograph by Fred Espenak
It's been almost four decades since a total eclipse of the sun was seen in the mainland United States, when, for a few minutes on February 26, 1979, the Moon obscured the entirety of the Sun in a narrow swath of land crossing the northwestern states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. As that day approached, my 11-year-old imagination churned with anticipation, excitement, and the fear of blinding myself, even as my fifth-grade class prepared by constructing eclipse viewers from shoeboxes and aluminum foil. In the end, February 26 turned out to be a typical winter day in Seattle: At the moment of totality, the overcast skies shifted undramatically from monochromatic gray to a darker monochromatic gray; in other words, a total bummer. Since life beyond the year 2000 was unimaginable - not to mention the ridiculous impossibility of 2017's eventual arrival - I buried my disappointment, adjusted my expectations, and moved on to the pressing demands of Battlestar Galactica, Real People, and Mork & Mindy.
Fortunately, I was wrong. On August 21, those standing within a 70-mile-wide band - this time starting in Oregon and arcing southeast across the continent to South Carolina - will witness one of nature's rarest and most gobsmacking events, weather permitting. But if you're not standing there now, you have some preparation to do, and quick. (If circumstances conspire, you have another chance in 2024. But after that, you're pushing your luck - the next total solar eclipse won't hit our shores until 2045.) Here is a short list of books and other necessary items to make the most of this extraordinary phenomenon.
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Goggles with Spikes
See also: Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets by Tyler Nordgren.
You might also like:
- Chariot of Fire: Apollo 8's Daring Mission to the Moon
- Exploring the Solar System Through the Astounding Photographs of Otherworlds
- Straight on Till Morning: Iconic Images from the Voyager Missions
- Fly Me to a Moon: Humanity's Next Home in the Universe
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