Editor’s Report: Eclipse Reality Versus Eclipse Hype

The big day is nearly here, but can the August total eclipse live up to expectations?

Faroe Island eclipse

FEELING THE JOY The sight of a totally eclipsed Sun is indescribably wondrous and elicits a range of emotional reactions, including laughter, cries of delight and tears of joy. PHOTO BY GARY SERONIK

Our special 2017 solar eclipse issue is now on newsstands. Here at SkyNews, we’ve worked hard to come up with a suite of articles that provides all the essential information you’ll need to enjoy the phenomenon. On page 12 eclipse chaser Paul Deans details what you can expect to see visually, while on page 16, Alan Dyer shows you how to bring home a fine eclipse picture. Finally, on page 30, we have advice for those opting to view the partial phases from home.

Not so long ago, August 21, 2017, was only a date in the distant future. Now, as we ready our equipment and make final plans, it’s hard to believe that the big day is nearly upon us. But will the Great Eclipse of 2017 live up to the hype? In this media-saturated, instant-gratification, “alternative fact,” click-bait age, where every modestly interesting occurrence is proclaimed “the most amazing ever!!!” and ginned up to “go viral,” it’s not unreasonable to be skeptical.

I fully expect that as August 21 draws nearer, we’ll see “sponsored content” cropping up on websites, featuring headlines like “The Moon covers the Sun—what happened next was completely unexpected!” Or, “This solar fail is totally astronomical!” Or, “10 eclipse sites you MUST visit! (You won’t believe #7!!).” You get the idea. We no longer live in the space age, or even the information age; we’re well and truly into the “age of hype.” So maybe a total eclipse is just another event that amounts to a huge load of nothing except for a few loopy astro-fanatics. Frankly, I don’t blame anyone for suspecting that. Once bitten, twice shy. I get it.

But if you’ve witnessed totality before, you already know that no amount of hype can taint the stunning grandeur of the experience. You’ve heard the spontaneous cries of joy that accompany the arrival of the Moon’s shadow. You’ve seen tears glistening on the upturned faces of happy eclipse watchers. You’ve felt the deep warmth that comes from sharing something profound and beautiful with a group of friends and strangers. You know it’s real—real in a way that bypasses the cerebral cortex and speaks directly to the reptilian part of the brain. It is, literally, awesome.

Have you ever considered why there are no great pop songs about total eclipses? (I’m leaving aside those where the eclipse is incidental or metaphorical.) Or why no photograph, video clip or painting has yet captured the surreal, otherworldly beauty of the spectacle? The truth is, there is no way to experience it virtually. And that’s a big part of why some people regularly travel to the ends of the Earth to stand in the Moon’s shadow for a few precious moments. Simply put, you gotta see it to believe it.

I urge everyone to make the effort to get to the centre line and witness totality firsthand. An eclipse that you can drive to in your car is rare, indeed! Don’t give it a pass because you’re worried it won’t live up to the hype. Don’t let the crass con men and click-bait purveyors dampen your curiosity. Reject the cynicism, and embrace the wonder. You won’t regret it.

Categories: Eclipse 2017, Eclipses, Editor's Report
4 comments on “Editor’s Report: Eclipse Reality Versus Eclipse Hype
  1. Glenn Skene says:

    “Stunning grandeur” nails it.

  2. Manuel Guerrero says:

    Excellent article Gary.
    I’ve never seen totality, but your words description of the event were powerful enough to transport me 50000 thousand miles away into space and I instantly pictured the event in my mind.
    Clear skies

  3. Trudy J Price says:

    Carly Simon’s pop song, “You’re So Vain”, refers to flying a Lear jet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.

    • Gary says:

      That’s the song I was thinking of when I added the qualifier “incidental.” The other one I thought of is “Moon Shadow” by Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam). But I read an interview in which he said that seeing his own shadow by the light of a full Moon was the inspiration for the song. A different kind of Moon shadow.

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