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Sunset Along the Canisteo River by Janie L. Ferguson.

Column: Eclipsing the Sun

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“…the synchronicity, some mythical omen, a glimpse of the cosmic clockworks

by Frederick Sinclair

In just a few weeks, (April  8th 2024) the Moon will totally eclipse the sun and cast a complete umbra (shadow) progressing southwest to northeast across the US. The event can be fully viewed here in Western NYS. The midday sky will darken and at total eclipse the moon will completely block out the body of the sun for 4 and a half minutes. We will experience a celestial alignment which has mesmerized mankind from the very beginning and spans hundreds of centuries. First and foremost, we need to firmly get the word out that under no circumstances should adults or children look at the event with the naked eye. Unprotected viewing can cause blindness! Welding goggle like or special light filtering lenses are required or other safe viewing measures must be employed for safe observation. See: eclipse.aas.org   

There are four classes of eclipses that block different amounts of the sun due to elliptical orbits. A total eclipse is the rarest, with a perfect alignment and sweet spot of orbits blocking essentially 100% of the sun. During such an event, the sun, which is 400 times bigger than the moon and at that point is also exactly 400 times farther away, create the total eclipse as the sun and moon, for that brief passage, appear to be exactly the same size. Total eclipses are relatively rare for our NY locality to view as the umbra paths vary greatly. Trained astrophysicists can calculate when and where they will occur but then again, ancient magicians, seers and stone monument builders did also. When a specific location is cast into the shadow of a totally blocked out sun, it is indeed a rare local event as the celestial bodies must hit that goldilocks ‘just right’ 400 multiplier of size, distance apart and perfect alignment for the solar eclipse to occur in totality.

What is it the mystique surrounding a total solar eclipse? Is it the synchronicity, some mythical omen, a glimpse of the cosmic clockworks or simply a rarity?  There are, however, additional unseen forces at play during the celestial alignment of planetary bodies.  Our 864,000 miles in diameter sun exerts huge gravitational forces, holding the earth and the entire planetary system in their respective orbits. The earth and moon also exchange strong enough gravitational forces to create the tides in our oceans and at different phases, in theory, can impact the very watery nature of our bodies and emotions. Could it be that the gravitational pull of the sun, moon and earth aligned together, biologically draw  man to bath in that umbra? There is growing conjecture that celestial alignments can also cause tectonic stress and disturbances in the earth’s crust. Some eclipse researchers theorize that the umbra of two total solar eclipses, a few years apart, crossed at the New Madrid fault line and may have triggered the 8.0 magnitude earthquake of 1811. Ironically, a similar pair of total eclipses one in 2017 and the upcoming 2024 event will complete a similar ‘X marks the spot’ on the very same New Madrid fault line located in southern Illinois..  Geologists do, however, also theorize several other combined factors which contribute to the intense seismicity of the New Madrid  fault system which is 6 times larger than the San Andreas in California. The question of planetary alignments triggering earth changes is also, however, compelling. Locally, University at Buffalo Geologists have documented  fissures of the active Clarendon – Linden fault system extending  from  Lake Ontario, south, and penetrating deep into Allegany County. One can only wonder if the upcoming total solar eclipse of April 8th will cause tremors through faults of our own?

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