(CNS) -- For the first time in 99 years, the summer sky will turn to night at
midday Aug. 21 during a solar eclipse along a 70-mile wide path from coast to
through the country's heartland, the eclipse will give millions of people the
opportunity to step back from everyday concerns and appreciate how the universe
works, said Jesuit Brother Guy
Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory.
there have been other total eclipses in the U.S., they have only crossed
through a handful of states.
that reminds the people that the world is bigger than the latest crisis in
Washington or another game in San Francisco, all of that calls us out of our
everyday life," Brother Consolmagno said. "We're people. We're more
than well-fed cows. We're part of the universe. And that longing is what pulls
us toward God.
even more than that if you already believe that this universe is God's
creation, then looking at an event like this with the eyes of faith, you can't
help but be filled with awe and gratitude. Awe because God made things so
marvelously, and gratitude because he gave us the ability to appreciate them,"
he told Catholic News Service.
advise viewers not to directly look at any solar eclipse without proper eye
protection. Special glasses, which are inexpensive, can be purchased to wear
during the partial phases of the event. Once totality begins, it is safe to
remove the glasses and take in the glory.
eclipses occur once every 18 months on average, but they are often in remote areas
that are difficult to get to.
eclipse occurs when the moon's orbit takes it directly in front of the sun,
casting a shadow on the earth. The moon's orbit is tilted just enough to prevent
an eclipse from occurring every month.
eclipse will take about 90 minutes to cross the country on a diagonal
Oregon to South Carolina. The moon's shadow will pass over Idaho Falls,
Casper, Wyoming; Kansas City (northern part) in Missouri and St. Louis
Nashville, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina -- as well as
countless towns and rural
communities. Some 12.2 million people live in the path of the eclipse
and millions more are expected to travel into the path of totality.
The entire country, including Alaska and Hawaii, all of Canada, all
of Mexico and even northern South America will see a partial eclipse.
eclipse -- at two minutes and 40 seconds -- takes place in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Parishioners
at Sts. Peter and Paul Church
in the southwestern Kentucky town of 32,000 have been preparing for months.
in town certainly knows it's coming," said Jim Creighton, a Sts. Peter and Paul parishioner and
a member of the parish's Eclipse Committee. "You can't listen to the radio
without every couple days hearing something about Hopkinsville being the point
of maximum eclipse."
city's tourism officials are expecting 100,000 visitors.
eclipse also will give observers the chance to see nature in action. As
darkness descends, birds will begin to roost, the temperature will fall several
degrees and some flowers may close. During the eclipse stars and planets --
especially elusive Mercury -- will appear. A white glow appears along the
sun and moon that provide the real show though. It is only during a total solar
eclipse that earthbound observers can view the sun's corona, or outer
atmosphere. It emanates for millions of miles from the sun's surface, but it
can be viewed only when the moon blots out the disk of earth's nearest stellar
neighbor. Scientists study the corona to better understand star structure.
Consolmagno will join parishioners for the eclipse -- his first, if the one in
Munich in 1999, which got rained out, doesn't count. He had planned to recreate
Arthur Eddington's 1919
experiment that showed how the light waves of stars are bent by the
sun's gravity, but plans to get the proper equipment in place fell through. Eddington's
findings helped prove an aspect of Albert Einstein's theory of general
plan is to just enjoy," he told CNS.
days leading to the eclipse, he will speak to students at the parish school Aug.
18 and deliver another talk about faith and science at 6 p.m. the evening of Aug.
20 at the parish.
see the eclipse as a way to interest people in observing the heavens and
understanding that Earth is a tiny component of an intricate universe.
Ryan M. Maderak, assistant professor
of physics and astronomy at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, has
been planning for the eclipse for more than a year. The college will host several
told CNS the campus is preparing to host 5,000 eclipse viewers.
also will allow school officials to showcase a renovation and expansion of its
science and engineering building, Westerman Hall. A new observatory will be dedicated the morning of
Chris Corbally and Paul Gabor, Vatican Observatory
astronomers, will be on campus, giving talks and advising eclipse
watchers. Duilia de Mello, vice provost and dean of assessment and an
studies galaxies at The Catholic University of America also will be
talking at Amelia Earhart Airport in Atchison prior to the eclipse and
then make her way to campus.
said studying eclipses provides a glimpse into how God created the universe.
an opportunity for a few brief minutes to stand in literal awe at the glory of
creation," he said.
an eclipse at any point on Earth occurs about once every 250 years. At times
people get lucky and see multiple eclipses within a short period of time. For some
people living in the August eclipse path -- southern Illinois and parts of
Missouri and Kentucky -- another eclipse will occur in just a few years, on April 8, 2024. That eclipse
that will last for more than four minutes.
said viewing an eclipse can help people understand that nature really controls
their lives, not the mundane actions of human beings.
all so ephemeral. We are not in control of anything. All of a sudden it's night
during the day," de Mello told CNS.
human being should see a total eclipse once in their life time. It will put
life in perspective."
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Details about the eclipse can be viewed online at
www.greatamericaneclipse.com. Benedictine College's events are listed
online at www.benedictine.edu/eclipse/index.