The Solar Eclipse and Me by author and public speaker Tony Candela

The Solar Eclipse and Me by author and public speaker Tony Candela

The Solar Eclipse and Me

 

By Tony Candela

 

We humans don’t know how lucky we are. We may well be the luckiest beings in the universe. Ours is a world that is abundant with life, an impressive phenomenon in its own right, but it is also abundant with complex life. This includes us, perhaps the only beings in the universe that can appreciate their own existence. We may have the moon to thank for all of it.

 

Planet Earth is not the only place that experiences total solar eclipses. Jupiter’s Ganymede has a radius of 1,635 miles, bigger than Mercury and Pluto and the largest moon in our solar system. The Moon is a bit smaller at 1,079 miles from its equator to its center. Ganymede orbits about 665,000 miles from Jupiter; the Moon in its elliptical orbit ranges from 226,000 miles to 253,000 miles from the Earth. On April 8, during the most recent total solar eclipse, it was at one of its closer points. An important aspect is that  the ratio of the Moon to Earth is far higher than the ratio of Ganymede to Jupiter. This has been a difference-maker in how the Moon affected life on Earth, the most important factor being the tides. The pulling and pushing of Earth’s bodies of water (for which we are also immensely fortunate to possess) caused tidal pools. These places of gentler and more air-exposed water would have been most amenable to the combination of organic molecules necessary for life to have begun.

 

We may owe more to Jupiter than we know. About 5 billion years ago, Jupiter may have perturbed the orbit of a hypothesized planet Theia which sat in an Earth-Sun LaGrange point, calmly enjoying equal gravitational pull from the Earth and Sun, and keeping its proper distance from the proto-Earth. Rebecca Boyle’s 2024 book, Our Moon, available on Bookshare, describes the hypothesized collision between Theia and proto-Earth. Its orbit, perturbed by Jupiter, caused it to eventually crash into a newly formed and not-yet-settled Earth. The break-up left the Earth-Theia mass in a clumpy and molten state which allowed it to re-coalesce in a very short time. It left a more diversely built and solid Earth and lo and behold, our moon. Boyle states that ongoing and modern analyses of moon rocks brought to us by the Apollo astronauts 50+ years ago has enabled scientists to make these hypotheses.

 

Boyle describes the relationship between the Moon and life on Earth, ranging from its lighting up what would surely be a very dark night; to evolution; to time-measurement, especially calendars. Folklore abounds, as we know, everything from lunacy to romance, but lately, nothing seems to have garnered our collective attention more than the solar eclipse.

 

When the Moon passed between the Earth and Sun on April 8, 2024, the resulting shadow carved a northeasterly path in the northern hemisphere from Mexico to Newfoundland, capturing the attention of millions of people. As a blind person, while I was not able to see the eclipse, I was enraptured by the astronomy. With sadness for not being able to see it, I was also caught up in the human impact.

 

My reaction to the eclipse is similar to my reaction to daylight savings time. I am pretty much unaffected by either. Although I would not dare look at the sky during the eclipse (who knows what extra damage all that ultra-violet radiation might wreak upon my visual system?), I would have loved to have safely viewed the darkening as the Moon moved across the face of the Sun; the “Baily’s beads” and “Diamond Ring” effects; and of course, the coup de gras, the darkened environment as the Moon left us with only the Sun’s corona to look at. (Note: the “Baily’s beads” and “Diamond Ring” phenomena are sparkles of light cutting through the mountains and craters of the Moon during total and partial (annular) eclipses.)

 

The most interesting behavioral effect of the eclipse may not be the awe-struck humans, but the effect on animals reacting as if it were time for sleep and shelter, their diurnal instincts kicking in, an homage to the effect of the Moon. Notwithstanding, I was also affected. I felt separate from my fellow life forms in a more dramatic way than usual. We who are blind do miss something when we can’t see. Our imaginations and if we are lucky, past visual experiences make up for some of it, but the camaraderie and simultaneity just isn’t the same. Sometimes beauty is just plain visual.

 

Let’s be upbeat. Where there is a will, there is a way. Many far-away phenomena can be imitated within arm’s length. The heat of a light bulb can be occluded so a blind person can get a feel for the solar eclipse effect. NASA and others have been able to create auditory versions of many astronomical phenomena. Finally, it would behoove all of us to engage with our fellow life forms in one of the greatest examples of cooperation perhaps in the universe. How many planets will we ever find or have ever existed that live in the “Goldilocks zone,” that place just far enough from a star to have temperatures that permit water to exist? How many planets will have a moon like ours? How many planets will have a magnetic field and ozone layer protecting our atmosphere? (Remember, Venus got too hot and Mars lost its atmosphere. Venus has no moon and probably never had one; Mars’ moons are too small to matter.) How many planets will have advanced beings like we humans who?

 

If we can prevent it, we will save ourselves from destroying all that has been given to us – including our ability to experience the awesomeness of solar eclipses. If you are around 40 years from now, there will be another in our part of the world. If you are in Madagascar, there is good news. Four thousand years from now, the zone of totality will finally cross your path!

 

Anthony R. Candela, Author

 

Saying aloud what should not remain silent.

 

Books by Tony…

 

Stand Up Or Sit Out: Memories and Musings Of a Blind Wrestler, Runner, and All-around Regular Guy

A memoir about life lessons learned, especially through sports

 

Vision Dreams: A Parable

A sci-fi novella about how a dysfunctional society forces people to go to extremes, including four blind people who seek out artificial vision.

 

buy his books here.

 

More About Tony…

 

Tony Candela has worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor, supervisor, manager consultant and administrator for more than 40 years in the field of blindness and visual impairment. His work has included promoting literacy and employment of blind persons and a special interest in enhancing the career preparation of blind persons who wish to work in the computer science field. He is a “retired” athlete, loves movies, sports, reading, writing, and music, including dabbling in guitar.

 

Follow him on Facebook for more here.

 

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