Path of the August 21, 2017, Solar Eclipse. The pin on the map is the location of the longest duration of totality. This is an interactive map created by a guy named Xavier Jubeir, an eclipse nut. Here’s the link to the real thing…..
The Hullabaloo will begin at the tip of the caterpillar-like Severny Island in the Russian Arctic and perform a strange looping lope around the Russian mainland, before it curves down into the North Pacific, barely missing Alaska by the breadth of a hair.
Unstoppable, it will flit first over the Sea of Okhtosk, then the Bering Sea, before plunging southward at more than fifty times the speed of sound. All this while, it will still not show itself but will remain just a faint shadow – albeit a gradually widening and darkening one.
And then, somewhere in the middle of the North Pacific, around a thousand miles south of the Aleutian Island chain – almost bang on the International Date Line – the width of the penumbral shadow will have grown from zero at the Severny to around 600 miles and as it appears over the curvature of the horizon, it will begin slowing down quickly.
At this point another strange thing will happen, one that is guaranteed by the earth’s spherical shape and 5⁰ tilt of the moon’s orbital plane with respect to that of the earth around the sun – the faint penumbral shadow will suddenly coalesce and harden mid-ocean into a slightly elliptic dot of complete darkness, surrounded by a lighter grey annular patch resembling an areola around a nipple. It will turn sharply and begin racing eastward toward the western state of Oregon in the US mainland.
The Hullabaloo will now be something tangible – a gradually decelerating dark oval dot that starts with a modest width of 40 miles, almost doubling to 75 miles somewhere over the American state of Illinois, a point where it will be directly overhead, remaining total for the longest duration (around 2 mins, 40 secs), now at a crawling speed – just over twice the speed of sound – 1450mph.
The Hullabaloo has a short attention span. By now it will tire of us gawking at it and speed up once again until it bids us goodbye near the Portuguese North Atlantic islands known as Cape Verde.
From the start – Mid-Pacific – to finish at Cape Verde, the Hullabaloo will have covered 140⁰ in Latitude – 6100miles. The only landmass it encounters will be the American mainland, a distance it will cover in less than an hour. It will leave behind an astronomical wealth of scientific study and a bunch of destroyed retinae of shmucks who looked directly at it a bit too long, beyond the totality. Since it will cross over what is essentially Trump country, maybe most of those shmucks shall be Trump trash. For once, bigotry isn’t the only thing that will blind them.
I am calling it a Hullabaloo because of the typically American tendency to make a big deal of things, specially when those things happen to them. Okay, so the moon will hide the sun. The American media is making it look like it’s a once in a lifetime thing, which it definitely isn’t. The looney loon hides the sun on a fairly regular basis, on any given part of the world at least every three to four years.
I personally witnessed such a hullabaloo once – in a hick joint in southern India, called Hubli, where as a twennie five year old sales rep, I had just happened ta be at the right place at the right time. It was also the place where I met my first white female friend, Cindy, a grad student at UCLA. Her theoretical physics grant had allowed her to make the trip to record the eclipse.
I woulda told you about what we got up to when she wasn’t occupied in the eclipse study mode, but this is neither the time nor the place for that. Why do my blog posts have ta mention sex every time?
The striking thing about that day in February, 1980, was that while the ordinary Indian locals went about their daily lives trying to make ends meet, not giving a flying f—k about the solar eclipse, the place was crawling with professional and amateur astronomers from all over the world, like Cindy, lugging massive tripods and camera equipment that had lenses which resembled large megaphones. The disconnect was stark.
While the luckier arrivals managed to share cramped rooms in tiny wayside hotels, the majority were roughing it out in tents they had erected on the rooftops of hotels, to record the event. There was a palpable surge of excitement running through these aliens from foreign lands, which was in stark contrast to the laid back laconic bemusement of the locals.
Great, that’s what gets them going, fine, I thought of the foreigners. That’s what turns ‘em on, so be it. Me, I would be rather Sridevi appeared all of a sudden at the front door of my Bangalore flat. I would have loved ta check out her Sea of Tranquility. (Today it would have ta be Scarlett Johanssen of course).
I’ll tell you where I’ll be when the next one comes around, July 2019 – The French Polynesian Islands east of New Zealand. Some of those tiny islands have only girls there – in grass skirts……