Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Eclipse 2017: Afterword

This is the fourth and final post in my series about the journey to the 2017 solar eclipse.

The other posts are:

Eclipse Day



What worked, what didn't?

Nearly everything about my eclipse observing plan worked well, with the exception of my binoculars.

The 6" scope (an f/10 Mak-Cass, with a star diagonal and a 31mm Nagler eyepiece) worked like gangbusters. The mount wasn't fancy, but it was sturdy enough to give a good steady view, and the solar tracking rate worked quite nicely. Getting it polar-aligned the night before was a godsend. Having a full-aperture filter made of Thousand Oaks Optical film worked great. I'm still amazed at how steady the seeing was, and how much detail I could see through the scope during totality. Seeing that oh-so-thin red arc of chromosphere for a few seconds after C2 made the scope totally worthwhile. And the views of the inner corona and prominences were amazing, capturing a lot of the detail seen in the video by Jun Ho Oh's group. I think my favorite thing about the telescope view - besides the intricate details in the prominences - was seeing the magnetic field lines in the inner corona forming loops around the prominences. That's a `Druckmuller image' type of detail, and seeing it was a huge win.

I gambled that my binoculars would work, and I lost. The 15x50 image-stabilized binoculars work great.. WHEN the stabilizer is working. I knew that if the stabilizer conked out, I would be unlikely to even find the Sun in the field of view, much less get a decent view OF the eclipsed Sun. And that's how it went. I don't know what makes the stabilizer come and go, but on eclipse day it went south. Bummer. Looking back on it, I feel like a complete goof for not bringing a small, lightweight pair of binoculars as backup. I think my folks even have some binos like that, and I could so easily have brought them. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Come to that, I kind of wish I'd pulled the "buy" trigger on the smaller, lighter, less-powerful pair of I.S. binos I'd put on my Amazon shopping list. They'd have been spendy, but I'll bet the `overall view' of the corona would have been well worth it. Something for next time.

But - and I know I sound like a broken record here - the eclipse experience was SO great! The malfunctioning binos really don't mar the memory.

If I'm listing things that didn't work, I think the closest thing to a `big disappointment' is that I couldn't hold my welder's glass steady when the Sun was a thin crescent. If I could have seen the inner corona for at least a minute or so, on either side of totality, that would have been great.


I wish I'd had a hemispherical (or spherical) GoPro rig

During totality, and for several minutes before and after it, I had a GoPro Hero 4 Black pointed toward the Sun’s azimuth. It captured the Sun and the scenery in front of our camp, such as RVs that were parked Sun-ward of us. I’m pretty happy with what I captured, and I’ve watched it many times. A friend had another Hero 4 Black on top of the same van as mine, pointed at our group as we watched the eclipse. I’m really glad my friend recorded us, and I’m glad I had a camera pointed at the Sun, too. But, after the fact, I wish I could have recorded high-res, spherical footage. I put a grey card and a Gretag Macbeth color target on a piece of white foamcore board in front of my own GoPro, but it didn’t wind up in the frame. Might have caught some shadow bands if it had, and I might have seen some interesting color effects.

If I’d had more money for the trip, I kind of wish I could have had several Hero 4 Black cameras (or something like them), mounted in one of those rigs that points them in several directions at once. I’m not familiar with the processing software, but the computer I built earlier that summer (with awesome help from a very knowledgeable fellow who was in Smith’s Ferry with us) might be able to handle it. If nothing else, I’ll bet I could have taken the upper hemisphere of the footage, and projected it on our planetarium dome at school, using our Sky-Skan Definiti projectors. That would have been really cool.


Thoughts about the next 2-minute totality

Let’s imagine that a pile of money had fallen into my lap, and I was able to go to the 2019 and/or 2020 eclipses in South America. Both of those totalities will be like America 2017, about 2 minutes long. It wouldn’t be practical to haul along a telescope like I did to Idaho, so I’d just plan to watch them with binoculars and a piece of welder’s glass. I’d buy some new image-stabilized binoculars if I could, and I’d take along some small backup binos. I’d make filters for the binos, and take a piece of shade-14 welder’s glass for my eyes (plus a few backup pieces). And that’s it.

As great as my telescopic view of the inner corona and prominences was, I don’t think it would be worth hassling with if I had to fly to an eclipse. If could make it to South America in 2019 or 2020, my trip would consist of little more than: 1) Flying to Buenos Aires or Santiago, 2) Getting into a rental car, and 3) Pulling over on the side of the road somewhere in rural Argentina or Chile on eclipse day. Then back to the big city, to the airport and back home. That’s all I’d be able to afford. Maybe I’d eat one steak with some chimichurri sauce, but otherwise, just bread and cheese from grocery stores. El Cheapo Eclipse Trip, baby!😆

In that scheme, there won’t be any telescope, just binos and a piece of welder’s glass. Simple, no fuss, no muss. Make a quick horizon spin during mid-totality, maybe look for the teapot of Sagittarius at the zenith in 2020, but otherwise, just look at the freakin’ corona, and make sure not to miss the diamond rings. Bada boom, bada bing, total eclipse(s) observed. That would be sweet.

Thoughts about Baily’s beads and annular eclipses

Having now seen both an annular eclipse and a total eclipse, I have a guideline for myself:

  • Total eclipses are for looking at the corona, and maybe prominences / chromosphere if you’re lucky.
  • Annular eclipses are for looking at Baily’s beads (through a safe solar filter).

Notice that “Baily’s beads” and “total eclipse” don’t really go together. During a diamond ring, sure, you see AN amazing Baily’s bead, and that’s awesome in that context. But I think for me at least, it’s not feasible to see the last bright arc of photosphere break up into beads (which requires a filtered telescope) and then ALSO look up to see the diamond ring and C2 corona with the unaided eye. (Too much time is required to remove the solar filter and stand up. And IMO, it’s best to be standing, given how overwhelming and whoop-inducing the event is!) These latter two things are non-negotiable must-see’s, in my opinion, so an attempt to see a chain of multiple, blinky-winky Baily’s beads is best saved for an annular eclipse.

During the 2012 annular eclipse, the beads looked really cool at C2 and C3! I was quite pleased by this. When annularity comes to North America again in 2023, I plan to be at a friend’s house in Albuquerque, along with the rest of our Lassen crew, and then I’ll enjoy those beads again. We’ll be on the centerline, we’ll have scopes with solar filters, maybe enjoy a nice long leisurely brunch, and then have a front-row seat for some nice beads at high magnification. Maybe my friend will capture some high-res video at long focal length. Should be cool!

And then, only several months later, we’ll (hopefully!) find some clear sky in southwest Texas, and catch ourselves some more corona!

After we got home, we were able to buy some Smith's Ferry shirts from Pastor Josh, who'd organized the Grace Chapel observing site.


I wasn't born at a good time for North American eclipse-watchers; it seems like the eclipses in my youth were always in Indonesia or someplace distant like that. But looking into the future, there are a lot of eclipses in the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s that might be quite feasible to reach.

Naturally, I'd love to go to South America in 2019 and/or 2020. If I had to pick one, it would be the December 2020 total eclipse. Although it would be wonderful to observe it from the Andes near the Chile-Argentina border, I think I'd be tempted to shoot for rural eastern Argentina. Fly into Buenos Aires, rent a car, and just head for some remote place in the path, out in the dry steppes of eastern Argentina. I don't know how easy it would be to find places to camp, but this might be a good place to try and pull off a cheap-ish foreign (for me) eclipse trip.

I doubt the sky around the eclipsed Sun would be dark enough to show it, but my ultimate dream for the 2020 eclipse would be to see the `Teapot' of Sagittarius, and the `stinger' of Scorpius during totality. As an amateur astronomer I've spent a lot of my time dreaming of seeing that central Milky Way region overhead. I have seen it overhead in New Zealand and Australia, and the thrill of that sight is comparable to seeing a total eclipse. Being able to see totality and a few of the brighter stars that mark the center of the Galaxy... my cup runneth over at the thought!

2023, of course, will be Annularity in Albuquerque. Maybe I can send some gear to my buddy's house in advance, fly to ABQ, and have a nice high-magnification view (with a safe solar filter) while those Baily's Beads blink and wink at C2 and C3.

Then it's time for Texas 2024! 😁 Yee haw, pardner! Where's my Stetson? Here's hoping against hope that early April is kind to us in the region to the west or southwest of San Antonio. If we get lucky and get some clear skies on the centerline, we'll have four whole minutes of totality! Man, I can hardly imagine what a luxury that would be!... er, yeah, actually if I'm lucky it'll feel like four seconds instead of three seconds! 😆

Spain 2026... where to go? That's another nice August eclipse (seems like that's a theme during my lifetime, yay). If the weather prospects look good, I think it would be awesome to see totality from a high limestone mountain in the Picos de Europa.

Then, of course, the Big One, the Main Event... Luxor 2027! Six glorious minutes of totality among the antiquities of Ancient Egypt. The shadow of the Moon in the Valley of the Kings! Wow, what a sight that would be. It won't be cheap, that's for sure, and the weather will be roasty-toasty in August, but it would be pretty incredible.

2028 promises to have another great eclipse in Australia. This one will be a Great Australian Eclipse. Four minutes of totality in Sydney, and five minutes in the Northern Territory. It'll be in the SoHem winter, so tropical moisture shouldn't be too bad in the north, and camping out to save money should be feasible, without the summer heat. And Australia has three more total eclipses in 2030, 2037, and 2038! What a bonanza!

It's back to North America in the 2040s. In 2017, during America's great coast-to-coast eclipse, the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Canada and the U.S. will get two beautiful summertime eclipses in 2044 and 2045. The beautiful mountains of western Canada will be the site of a broad path of totality in the first case, and the 2045 path will be a lot like 2017, but farther south.

Perhaps most memorably of all in the 2045 eclipse, the Moon's shadow will sweep over Lassen Peak, where the group with whom I watched my first totality spent so many nights under the dark skies of summer, high on the flank of the volcano. Talk about full circle!

2052, anyone? If I make it that long, I think I'll shoot for someplace in Florida near the edge of the path, to try my hand at seeing a maximal display of Baily's beads and the diamond rings.

Okay, that last point got me thinking. Let's imagine it's 2052, and somehow I've made it into my mid-80s, with my mind and my eyesight reasonably intact. That's asking a lot, but let's say it were to happen. Maybe I'd indulge myself, during my "likely last totality", with an observing site near the edge of the path. I think that would be really interesting, to see the maximal display of beads, crawling slowly along the edge of the Moon's limb, in a long, drawn-out diamond ring. The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that it could be really special. Rather like Fred Brujenes's video from Warrensburg, Missouri in 2017. Thinking about this, I found myself in a reverie about the Moon, Baily's Beads, and the diamond rings. It gave me an idea for a story...

... Imagine it's the future, and people are able to travel to the Moon regularly. This might be a world like the one depicted in Andy Weir's novel Artemis. Let's say you could go to the Moon, and perhaps spend a large fraction of your life living and working there. And imagine, furthermore, that it became possible to travel around on the lunar surface, like we travel around on the Earth. I wonder if something like the following would ever happen?...

A Story: You've Got a Buddy in the Baily's Bead

The traveler checked their rover's nav system, and saw that they were right on track, and right on schedule. It had been decades since the engineers had sorted out the details of the Lunar Global Positioning System, and coping with those lunar mascons had been a real bear. Not to mention the gravity of the Earth and Sun. But it had all worked for years now, and a reasonably enterprising traveler could buy and outfit a rover capable of covering thousands of miles across the lunar surface. With enough patience, a decent-sized trailer full of supplies, and a willingness to tend to their recycling and environmental systems, a rover driver could nearly circumnavigate the Moon - and know just where they were the whole time.

The traveler always enjoyed reading about the great journeys across the Earth's surface. Although most history buffs were drawn to the romance of the sea, with its voyages of discovery, its heroes and villains, and its age of fighting sail, the traveler was, at heart, a landlubber. Perhaps that's why they'd taken a job on the Moon, where there was nothing but dry land, and where you could strike out across the Sea of Tranquillity, or the Sea of Serenity, or even the Ocean of Storms, and never get seasick or sink down to a watery grave. In the end, that's probably why the traveler had worked on EVA crews for long hours, and had saved up their money to buy and outfit a long-distance rover.

Most people on Earth took the maglevs everywhere, but the traveler understood why a few of them still liked their own vehicles. It was possible to spend hours reading about the arduous journeys across the Earth's vast continents, from the Paleolithic migrations lost in time, to the camel caravans of the Sahara, to the latter-day recreationalists who sought the open road. The traveler loved accounts of 20th and 21st century travelers, like those who drove from Cape Horn to Point Barrow, or who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, or rode a bicycle across the country. Sometimes, buried deep in a net archive, they'd find tales of four-wheel drive enthusiasts who followed the old Canning Stock Route in the Australian outback, or drove over the remote Steel Pass in the California desert. Apparently a few people still did that even now, albeit without the uncertainty of the old gasoline-powered vehicles.

Like many lunar workers and residents, the traveler liked to spend time alone. Long solitary voyages across the Moon's face and EVA ascents of lunar mountains were their favorite pastime. Looking out over the vastness of a mare plain, from a mountainous rim, filled them with a sensation of "sight lines and grandeur", and even more so if the Earth hung in the sky, fat and gibbous like a ripening plum. Sometimes they deployed their telescope, aligned the mount, opened up the dust shields, and looked at the Earth for hours. Unlike the Moon, which they'd gazed at through the eyepiece so many times in youth, the Earth rotated visibly, and brought glorious new details into view nearly every minute. Sometimes they'd catch sight of a flash of lightning, as a tropical storm roiled the sweltering evening sky. Or, if the illumination was just right, they could see the shadow of a mountain range cast out upon a nearby plateau. The Himalaya in winter was the best, when sometimes, at high magnification, you could just see the long shadows of Everest, Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma thrown out across the cold, dry Tibetan plateau.

As much as they loved solitude and the Moon, the traveler was thankful that they had friends, some here on the ol' natural satellite, and some back on ol' Mother Earth. And they were thankful that they could still visit the mother planet from time to time, if they juggled the budgets for vehicle mods and cislunar cycler tickets just right, and caught enough lucky overtime at an ilmenite mine or one of the farside telescope sites. The long, sweaty months of strength training weren't easy, but it was worth it for the chance to camp in the desert with some old friends, swim in a lake, feel the wind and rain, and strain against the gravity they'd evolved for. And sometimes to look up at the night sky through an actual glass eyepiece, just like the astronomers of old, instead of the monitor of their telescope back on the Moon.

The traveler turned on their headlights, since the shadows were growing long. This had been a long trip across the farside, and they were nearing their destination. And what a trip it had been - a chance to cross the remote and seldom-visited Mare Orientale! They'd always had a soft spot in their heart for Orientale, since it was a symbol of the early Space Age, in a way. Seen from above, it was simply staggering - a giant bulls-eye of immense shock-ring mountain ranges, forming the freshest, most perfect example of a large impact basin on the Moon. And as seen from the Earth, it was just barely, tantalizingly visible. Only when the libration tipped the western edge of the Moon towards the Earth just so, could an Earthbound observer see the giant ring-like mountain ranges, or hints of the lava patches between them. Between the time it was discovered and the time of the first lunar landings, lunar maps changed. They went from having their easts and wests arranged like maps of the sky to having them arranged like maps of the ground, so the "Eastern Sea" was on the west side of the visible face of the Moon. And at the dawn of spaceflight, planetary scientists had taken an old-fashioned slide projector and projected telescopic images of the Moon onto a blank white globe. This allowed them to look straight "down" on Orientale, as though they were space travelers, and get some notion of its true structure. The traveler always smiled when they thought of those long-ago scientists, standing next to a globe in a darkened room, playing the part of Moon-orbiting astronauts avant la lettre. Everything about Orientale was unusual and a treat.

But there was something even better about approaching this region from the farside... Earthrise! With each mile forward, they leaned forward and strained to see the first hint of that blue-white disk. Is that it? Am I seeing the faintest hint of a bright patch on the forward horizon? It was like catching the first faint glimpse of the Rocky Mountains back on Earth, when driving across the Great Plains. A little farther. Now? How about now?

And then, at last, it was certain - there it was! An unmistakable hint of bright blue-white light, like a glowing bead between two low hills. "Bead! Ha! A bead indeed!" they thought, smiling as if in response to an inside joke. A handful of additional miles, and there was no doubt. Earth - dead ahead! Now the sliver of home planet above the horizon grew with each mile forward, until the curve of it rose like a slowly-expanding bubble. Details emerged, as the hazy whitish limb broke free of the Moon, and more of the blue disk appeared. White wisps of cloud, more sea-blue, and then, at last, the greens and browns of a continent. That oh-so-sweet sight of dry land, one of the homes of humanity on that orb of ocean, adrift in a sea of infinite star-speckled blackness.

Once half the Earth sat above the grey horizon, it was time to make camp. The traveler parked their rover, got the trailer and solar arrays arranged just so, and set up their telescope equipment. The next morning - at least by their watch, since it was still the two-week-long lunar day - they counted down to the main event.

All was ready. The traveler was outside, facing the horizon-hugging Earth. The scope was set up, powered up, and pointed at the Earth with the mount aligned and the dust shields open. The unoccupied rover was parked with its windshield facing towards the traveler. They only had to turn their head about thirty degrees from the Earth to look inside. Extra monitors were propped up on the rover's front seats, showing the telescope's view of the Earth, along with various software windows, news feeds, and data feeds. A couple of monitors were mirrored on their in-helmet display. The Moon-Earth radio and data links were working okay.

The traveler had to be outside in a spacesuit for this event. There was going to be much jumping up and down and hooting and hollering in a little while. No way they could stay in the rover for an event like this!

There was the Earth, right on the horizon. There was the telescope's magnified view, visible on a monitor through the rover's windshield. And there - there! - was what they'd come so far to see. Right where the Earth's disk touched the lunar horizon, the Earth looked wrong. Normally, the Moon's horizon transected the Earth's disk with incredible sharpness. But today, it was as though the outer darkness had infected the the beautiful globe that was the Earth. A faint smudge was growing at the lower edge of the visible half-disk. And with each passing minute, the dark stain got the tiniest bit larger, darker, more ominous. Its edge was impossible to discern, but towards its center, the darkness was much deeper. On the telescope's display, the darkness crept inexorably upward.

Then the voice channel beeped in the traveler's headset - incoming call! A grin spread across the traveler's face as they accepted the connection.

"Hey, hey, buddy!" said the traveler. "Good to hear from you! How's the chase going? Are you at your observing site? Is the weather holding?"

Their friend's voice came across the link. They were filled with pumped-up excitement, and a tumult of voices could be heard in the background.

"Yeah! We're on site! Wow, it's a crazy scene down here - you should see this place! Must be a few thousand people right around us here, and lots more sites like this one all around. We got a little worried looking at the clouds last night, but it looks like they've moved off - oh thank goodness! I was so worried last night, but wow, it's all coming together now! So awesome!"

"Sweet!" yelled the traveler, and they pumped their fist in the air. This, this was satisfaction!

At long, long last, their plan was falling into place. Over the years, the traveler and their friend had had many adventures together, and had spent many nights out under the star-filled sky. And best of all, on a few occasions, they'd seen the ultimate astronomical sight that could be seen from the surface of the Earth - a total solar eclipse. Those had been epic trips, and the sight of the eclipsed Sun had been beyond compare!

This time, though, they'd hatched a different plan. One would venture into the path of totality, dodging clouds and crowds and going through all the usual frenzy for a few more minutes of the experience beyond compare. The other would observe from the Moon, as its dark shadow raced across the Earth's face toward where their friend waited. It was the ultimate exercise in contrasts - one would be on Mother Earth, amongst a throng of frenzied fellow eclipse chasers, excitement building and accelerating with each passing minute. The other would be on a remote part of the Moon, in glorious solitude, watching the shadow through their telescope as the Sun set silently behind them.

Having seen totality from Earth before, the traveler wasn't disappointed at being alone in the magnificent desolation at the edge of Mare Orientale. Besides, they sometimes got to see total eclipses from the Moon, when the Earth passed in front of the Sun - those lasted over an hour!

This time, they would savor the silence and solitude of a lunar sunset at their back, while the Moon's shadow moved across the face of its parent planet. And then the stars would come out as the landscape around them darkened, and they could savor the sight of the constellations and the Milky Way, while their friend began their trip home on what was still eclipse day. And hanging above that backward horizon, visible for hours, would be the ethereal glory of half the corona. All in all, they thought, the Moon is a pretty awesome place for an eclipse chaser. But eclipses here are quiet and stately, without the drama and rushing excitement found on Earth.

The countdown timer ticked down, and on the telescope's monitor, the overlay showed that the edge of the Moon's umbra, the dark core of its shadow, was closing in on their friend's site, with only a few minutes to go.

"Holy mackerel, it's getting so dark!!" came the voice of the traveler's friend. "I can never believe how the light plunges like this! People are really starting to go crazy down here! The Sun's almost gone!"

"You're getting close, buddy! Not long now!" yelled the traveler into the helmet's microphone. "This is gonna be so awesome!"

The traveler double-checked their position on the map. This was going to work! Suddenly they realized that they were nearly as excited as their friend was, down in that crowd on the darkening ground, with the crescent Sun shrinking overhead. From up here on the Moon, everything was literally coming together... it was all going to happen like clockwork! Just as the two of them had visualized it. In just another couple of minutes, they'd both see what they'd journeyed so far to see.

On the distant horizon, the central core of the Moon's shadow had finally come into the traveler's view. Soon it would sweep over their friend's observing site. Through the telescope, the traveler could just see where the site was, as the darkness around it deepened and deepened.

The friend would see the solar crescent get narrow, and shrink, and disappear. Second contact! Totality would arrive. Incredible!

The traveler would see the light around their own self fade, too, as the Sun set behind them. Both friends would be in the shadow - one at the wide end and one at the narrow end.

Best of all, as the Moon covered the Sun, the friend would see that most amazing, most fleeting of all sights visible from the Earth: The diamond ring! For just a few seconds, after the corona had already emerged into view, a single bright Baily's bead would morph and burn at the edge of the black disk. The searing, burning day-sunlight would coexist with the light of the sky's grandest glowing nebula. The Sun would be shining through one last valley on the edge of the Moon.

And in that valley of the last light, at that exact spot on the Moon, stood the traveler, with the Sun at their back. From where their friend stood, along with all those other people, the invisibly distant traveler would be transformed into a point of blazing light, transfigured to become the heart of the second-contact diamond ring. Light will plunge into darkness, and I will become the momentary blaze of glory, the traveler thought.

Over the voice link, their friend's voice could just be heard over the crowd. They were counting down now: "... Twenty! Nineteen! Eighteen!..."  The traveler glanced at the only-slightly-silvered mirror they'd set up to reflect an image of the setting Sun into their helmet - the Sun was turning into a tiny little speck for the traveler, too! The light around them was fading, just as it was for their friend. Soon, they too would be bathed in the ethereal silvery light of the corona.

"The light's fading up here, too! The Sun's almost down behind me! I think it's about to get dark for both of us, pal!" yelled the traveler. They were starting to jump up and down, now, leaping upward in the one-sixth gravity like Gene Cernan saluting the flag on Apollo 17.

The voice from Earth called out: "...Seven! Six! Five!... Diamond ring! Oh my god, there it is! The diamond ring!"

On Earth, the racing edge of the Moon's shadow plunged the land into darkness. People laughed, cried, screamed. Shadows vanished. Day turned into night. The sky became an unreal dome of bluish-purple twilight, and the last Baily's bead burned for a few seconds as the corona shone forth.

On the Moon, the traveler savored these seconds as if they were seeing the sight themselves. For not only was their friend seeing that burning bead, but here, on the silent grey lunar surface, the traveler got to be in it. Became it. Became part of the eclipse.

On Earth, the voice of the traveler could be heard:

"You've got a buddy in the Baily's bead, my friend! Welcome to the shadow of the Moon!"


When you’ve anticipated something for as long as some of us had anticipated the 2017 eclipse, can it possibly be a life-changing experience?

At first thought, it would seem like no, it can’t. It’s simply going to be a feeling of “Finally! It’s in the bag! That big bucket-list item is complete!” And there was a great deal of that feeling, and I still feel that way. But in another way, the good fortune that we had in 2017 has restored my faith, ever so slightly, that things CAN go okay sometimes! There are a lot of things in life that make us pessimistic, and things don't always go right. People get clouded out of eclipses, and I’ll almost certainly get clouded out of some of them in the future. But sometimes... sometimes it actually DOES work! The depth of that feeling, after the eclipse, surprised me.

I can’t remember who said this, but I think it fits the total eclipse experience pretty well: Life is full of things that show us that the world is as terrible as it is beautiful, but sometimes, if we work hard and if we’re lucky, we encounter something that reminds us that life is as beautiful as it is terrible. Life was very beautiful on that day in Smith’s Ferry, Idaho. I will only see a certain number of eclipses in my life. But the Moon really does keep moving in its orbit, and a lot of people, and a lot of landscapes, will experience some very beautiful days for as long as the Moon is close enough to make total eclipses. There’s a lot of peace and fulfillment in that thought.