Mar 29, 2006

Eclipse

There's an eclipse today. The broohaha is that the moon will block out the sun for as long as 4 minutes or so, widely seen today at lunch time GMT in a swath of land that includes Turkey. Since we finally got our rain back, we in Bergen, Norway, will not see the eclipse. We probably won't notice the disappearing light, either, because at our latitude the eclipse is partial, with the moon blocking only 30% of the sun, and who can tell with all these clouds, anyway.

But this reminds of the day we did see a brief but total eclipse here in Bergen, Norway. On a hot, clear August day in 1999, I scrounged for something dark enough to see through, and then took the day off work to sit on my grandma's balcony. She had a front row view, directly facing the path of the eclipse, and she and I got ourselves out there, with a pot of coffee by our side, and waited for the nearly invisible moon to climb high enough to meet the sun.

We sat in the heat, toasting and tanning our bare feet, talking about everything and nothing, remembering other eclipses we'd seen, and then the moon started to slide across the sun. It seemed to take forever and for the longest time, we noticed no change in the light, just changes in the sun's shape. Then, at the moment of total eclipse - that brief moment - we were all suddenly in shadow and the air temperature dropped noticably. No birds sang. For a bare minute we watched and felt a midday world with no sunlight, and then the moon started slipping away. The shadows cast from the leaves on the trees were little discs. Life sprang back: Birds started singing again, the temperature rose, we went back to sun-bathing our toes while we watched our sun regain its usual round shape.

Grandma's comment was, "Is that it?" but I was awestruck, since it was my first solar eclipse. I can understand that that "newbie" awe will never return, which probably explains Grandma's reaction, but I'm happy I took the day off and spent it looking up. I probably got some eye damage ("floaters"), but I take that as a happy memento from life on Planet Earth. (I don't recommed eye damage, I'm just saying I had dumb luck after staring at the sun.)

It's pretty amazing that we live on a world where our natural satellite appears to be the exact same size as our star, and where Earth, Moon and Sun will all line up on occassion, causing one or the other body to block each other completely, giving us a spectacle in the sky that draws crowds and apparantly also earthquakes. No wonder many people have believed and still believe eclipses are omens.

2 comments:

Darren said...

Thanks for the story, Keera. You've done something that I've never done---experience a total eclipse.

Well, I did some research and I found out the great news that a total eclipse will be happening in my backyard (China) exactly a week before the 2008 Olympics begin. That's awesome for me, plus for anyone planning to travel to Beijing for the Olympics. I can't wait!

Keera said...

There's a first time for everything. :-) Invest in something meant for viewing eclipses. Don't put your faith (and eyesight) in "home remedies". And I hope you have great viewing weather! Enjoy when the time comes!