View: A total eclipse of the sun.


Today’s #DailyRevolution is to take some time to marvel at the beauty and spectacle that is the “Great American Solar Eclipse” (with some safety glasses, of course -- viewing an eclipse without protection can fry your naked eyes).

In a bit of non-political news, the US is experiencing a full solar eclipse today, Monday, August 21. Our action today is to get outside, grab some solar eclipse glasses or a homemade pinhole projector, and take a moment to appreciate the insane astronomical coincidence that is a solar eclipse.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sun from the sky. This means a solar eclipse can only happen at the new moon -- however they don’t occur at every new moon because of the moon's slightly tilted orbit. If you happen to be lucky enough to be in the path of totality – where the moon completely obscures the sun in the sky – what you’re left with is the breathtaking view of the sun’s glowing corona peeking out from around the edges of the dark black disk of the moon. In an instant, day turns into night. Birds stop chirping, the temperature drops, stars become visible, and a strange sunset will be visible at all edges of the horizon. It’s an astronomical spectacle that some people spend their lives chasing, and we get to witness it here on our home turf.

There are some pretty incredible cosmic coincidences at play to make this spectacle possible. The moon, which is 400 times smaller than our sun, is exactly 400 times closer to Earth than the sun. Any further or closer away, and we wouldn’t get the incredible view we get. In fact, because the moon’s orbit is slowly taking it further and further away from Earth, our final total solar eclipse will happen in about 650 million years.

This is far from the first solar eclipse to grace the US and certainly not the last (so don’t believe the “once-in-a-lifetime!”-ers), but it’s shaping up to be one of the most-watched due to the path it carves across the country, the weather predictions for the day, and the media attention it’s been getting. Everywhere in the US will experience some form of a solar eclipse, and a 70-mile-wide band across 10 states will get to witness full totality.

If you don’t make it to the path of totality in this eclipse, don’t fret. There will be another eclipse over the US in 2024, and if you can’t wait that long, there will be one the year after next passing over South America.

Regardless of where you are in the US, take a break today to appreciate the perspective this beautiful solar eclipse offers. As NASA Data Visualizer Ernie Wright puts it eloquently:

“We kind of know — in the back of our minds — that we live in a giant ball and it revolves around a hot ball of gas, and we’re floating in space. But you don’t really believe it until you see something like a total solar eclipse, where everything is all lined up and you go whoaaa... It’s mostly a thing where you have a better appreciation of where you are in the solar system.”

Lastly, we’ll leave you with some interesting eclipse fun facts:

  1. Almost identical eclipses occur in different locations around the Earth every 6,585.3 days (18 years, 11 days, 8 hours). This is called a Saros cycle. This eclipse is part of Saros 145.

  2. The length of totality varies from eclipse to eclipse. We get about 2 minutes 40 seconds of totality this eclipse, but totality can last up to 7 minutes 30 seconds at its maximum.

  3. A 1919 solar eclipse helped Einstein prove his general theory of relativity.

  4. If you’re in the path of totality, before the moon completely blocks you’ll witness a phenomenon called “shadow bands,” which look sort of like the shimmery reflection you see on the ground near a pool on a sunny day.