The new moon and a solar eclipse occur on September 1st. Unfortunately for those who might want to experience it elsewhere, it will only be visible in central Africa and a strip of both the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
I love astronomical events. Moon phases, eclipses, comets and meteor showers all delight and fascinate me. I have an endless curiousity about stars and planets and all the strange things in the universe like black holes and quasars. I love picking out the constellations in the night sky and the mythology behind them. I once got a lovely contract job at Space Telescope Science Istitute and was so pleased to experience that even the “pros” who studied the stars were interesting and enjoyable to know.
I don’t do much with astronomy any more and would love to see that eclipse. As an alternate I am doing this post. I don’t know much about African beliefs about eclipses. There is so much diversity even just in central Africa there must be some interesting customs I’ve never heard of. I do know in most parts of the world, the mythological explanation is that something is eating the sun. In Vietnam, it was giant frog while Viking cultures blamed wolves. In ancient China, quite naturally, it was a celestial dragon that was thought to eat the Sun. The Chinese word 食, chih or shih means both eclipse and food or to eat.
Other cultures blamed it on the gods. The ancient Greeks pessimistically believed a solar eclipse indicated angry gods and foresaged disasters and destruction. In ancient Hindu mythology, the demon Rahu is beheaded by the gods for drinking amrit, the immortality potion. Rahu’s head flies off into the sky and swallows the Sun but it comes back by falling out his severed neck..
Eclipses act as historical markers. In the New Testament is states the sky was darkened for hours after the crucifixion of Jesus. The crucifixion has been tied to a one minute 59 second total solar eclipse in 29 C.E., or another, a four minute and six second eclipse, which occured in 33 C.E. In the case of the eclipse of 1919 it helped to change history. While the sun was blocked for six minutes and 51 seconds, scientists measured the refraction of starlight as it passed near the sun, and confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
In a town my exposure to celestial phenomena is blocked by buildings and trees. They are also obscured by the amount of light that pollutes the night sky. Yes indeed, it is called light pollution, a technical term. Although my neighborhood is a safe, quiet one and my neighbors either retired or working day jobs, virtually every porch light is on all night. They are not gentle lights either, more like prison spotlights. They interfere with my sleep and are just one more proof to the cats humans are off their rocker. My telescope is in storage, patiently waiting for rescue. Is it any wonder as I search for a better home for myself and my night hunters the far west looks like a good choice. In the desert or out on the ocean you see just how many visible stars there are. I want the sky above me at night to look like those Hubble pictures I worked with. I want to see the moon in eclipse as well. The cat’s love when I wake at night and spend time with them in the darkness. They would think an eclipse was fun, just as I would.