Look to the skies!

22:04, Nov 14 2012

I am the sort of person who gets a bit excited about eclipses. I wouldn't call myself an astronomy nerd by any stretch of the imagination but the relative rarity of an eclipse as an event does inspire a certain giddy enthusiasm from me.

It probably has something to do with the fact that over the course of a normal day, week or month I'm not much reminded of the fact that I'm part of the solar system. I just go about my usual activities of eating, sleeping and trying to avoid pieces of furniture with sharp corners. I'm not generally very mindful of the wonders of the universe, my own insignificance in the scheme of things or the vastness of space.

But every now and then an eclipse comes along to remind me and all of us that we're "standing on a planet that's evolving and revolving at nine hundred miles an hour, that's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned, a sun that is the source of all our power" or so the song goes.

My first eclipse, or at least the first one I can remember was at primary school. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old and I remember two things - some strange arrangement with cardboard tubes and paper resulting in a rather underwhelming shadow that we got to watch out on the back field, and not being plunged into darkness. It basically just got a bit cloudy but without the clouds. I was distinctly unimpressed by this and thought we'd all been ripped off.

Consequently I didn't show much interest in eclipses again until adulthood, in particular in London in 1999 when I found myself on Hampstead Heath, along with half the population of North London, brandishing a pair of cardboard viewing glasses I got free out of the latest issue of Loaded magazine. Though I barely needed them, because English weather being the uncooperative beast that it is, it was overcast. I still have the glasses though and I ferreted them out from the chaos of the spare room yesterday.

As I craned my neck upwards in the car park of my workplace I couldn't help thinking that eclipses are kind of like planetary scene-stealing. I mean, there the sun was yesterday doing its usual thing, shining down on us, making photosynthesis a real thing (rather than just a really hard word for people with lisps). And then in strolls the moon and gets all the attention. Like Zach Galifianakis in every movie he's ever been in, the moon just wanders by, perhaps pausing to scratch itself, and the world stops and fixes its gaze heavenward. If I were the sun I would be mightily pissed off at this situation.  

The other great thing about eclipses is that they bring some Bonnie Tyler into my day as it is damn near impossible for me to not get Total Eclipse of the Heart stuck in my head at some point. Because every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears and prefer to listen to the sound of Ms Tyler's husky warbling instead. Though how anyone could have ears so finely attuned they could pick out the sound of a teardrop rolling down their own face is a mystery to me. Maybe all the eyeliner she wore made her tears noisier?

Anyway, I just wondered if anyone else experienced the childlike glee I do when an eclipse, either solar or lunar, comes around. Do you rush outside and look to the skies or is it a case of "seen one, seen them all"?

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