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Total Solar Eclipse Excites People Around the Country

Eclipse+photo+by+Steve+Mornis+taken+in+Grand+Island%2C+Nebraska
Eclipse photo by Steve Mornis taken in Grand Island, Nebraska

Eclipse photo by Steve Mornis taken in Grand Island, Nebraska

Eclipse photo by Steve Mornis taken in Grand Island, Nebraska

Samantha Maxfield

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Many people put their eyes to the skies to try to get a glimpse of the total solar eclipse that would be passing across the continental United States in August of this year.  This eclipse, however, was especially exciting because it’s been thirty-eight years since the contiguous United States saw a total eclipse, according to NASA. The path of totality passed from Oregon, all the way to South Carolina.

So how does a solar eclipse happen? The earth and moon actually wobble on their orbits. “They have to line up just right so that the moon blocks the light from the sun from the earth,” explained Mr. Scott, a WSHS Science teacher.  People in the outer shadow of the moon, the penumbra, see a partial eclipse, while people in the inner shadow, called the umbra, see a total eclipse.

Of course, there was enough media coverage that the general population had known about the 2017 eclipse for a lengthy amount of time.  Ancient people watched the skies, and by keeping track of their patterns, were able to predict when eclipses would happen next, sometimes thousands of years in advance.

Ancient civilizations believed in gods of many things, including the sun. When people saw eclipses in the ancient world, they had no idea what was going on.  All of a sudden, their sun, that had been the one constant for all of their lives, seemed to disappear.  And, of course, people have to come up with an explanation for things that they don’t understand, which lead to different cultures having different ways to explain eclipses. The Mayans believed that there was something wrong with their gods. The Chinese believed that during an eclipse, a dragon was ‘eating’ the sun.  Alternatively, the Vikings believed that there were wolves chasing the sun and moon across the sky. When those wolves caught up with the sun, an eclipse would occur.  During the eclipse, the people watching would shout and make lots of noise in order to scare the wolves away, and when the eclipse ended, they believed that the wolves had resumed chasing the sun and moon until they eventually caught them again. An eclipse in 585 B.C. even stopped a battle between the Lydians and the Medes, two ancient civilizations. The eclipse, seen as an omen, stopped everyone in their tracks.

If for some reason you didn’t see this eclipse, don’t worry!  Mark your calendars; the next total solar eclipse will be in April of 2024, and the path of totality will be within two hours of us here in West Side.

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Total Solar Eclipse Excites People Around the Country