When it comes to eclipses of the sun, 2024 is clearly our year. According to NASA projections, Waco will be smack-dab in the middle of a narrow band across much of the United States where folks can behold a total eclipse. While totality will last but a couple of minutes, the spectacle will be enough to prompt a healthy respect for our truly inconsequential place in the heavens. It also guarantees you visits from relatives you see even less than solar eclipses.
So if you’re thinking of moving from Waco to another city, hang on another few years — a little less than seven, to be precise.
And the so-called Great American Eclipse unfolding Monday? The path of totality does indeed stretch across the United States but skirts Texas. About 70 percent of the sun will be blotted out locally — enough for one to know something is up, perhaps even enough to feel some summer relief and a light breeze. But the real show will travel along a narrow path from Lincoln Beach, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. And the folks near Carbondale, Illinois, will be treated to the longest duration of totality — two magical minutes and 40 stunning seconds. Maybe that’s why town boosters there are now billing it the “Solar Eclipse Crossroads of America.”
Even though we’re not due for optimum viewing in Waco this time around, we’re all for eclipses. They’re healthy for our minds and perspectives. Contemplate for a moment the miracle of the moon being of a size from our perch to where it precisely blocks out the sun so the latter’s otherwise invisible atmosphere — the corona — can be distinctly seen. If the moon were any smaller or if it were further out in its orbit, no total solar eclipse. All this involves the fact the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon but also 400 times farther away. That kind of celestial precision is enough to make believers out of religion skeptics.
Contemplate, too, the idea of our cold, lifeless moon and raging furnace of a sun in almighty conjunction. The realities they offer upon meditation should make one acknowledge the unforgiving consequences for our children and grandchildren if we plunder and pollute this planet with such great abandon.
And, finally, there’s something mind-altering about watching the moon’s shadow — if that’s truly what it is — rushing along the ground at your feet moments before totality that leaves you appreciative of the power of heavenly bodies in motion.
So, yes, we’ll miss the main attraction this time around. But consider Monday’s partial solar eclipse in Waco a warm-up for 2024. You’ll definitely require glasses labeled “ISO 12312-2 standard” to protect you from blindness (and no removing them at any time during a partial eclipse). Beware, too, of counterfeit eclipse glasses and the people who market them!
The local “cover-up” begins at 11:41 a.m. Monday with the moon finally blocking out as much of the sun as it’s going to from our location at 1:10 p.m. before it finally moves completely out of the sun’s radiance at 2:39 p.m.
Oh, and keep your fingers crossed for clear, sunny skies on April 8, 2024.