By now you’ve seen a ton of stories on the upcoming solar eclipse Monday. There are wonderful maps showing the path, the times, the amounts of the solar disk obscured. There have been pieces on the impacts to wildlife, the local atmosphere — temperature and humidity — even quirky things like “Baily’s Beads, “ the brightening’s peeking over the edge of the moon’s limb.
But, but, but. There would be no eclipse if there weren’t another partner in this organization. Yeah, what about the moon?
Come Monday, the sun will just be going about another day, shining. The moon, however, will be arranging itself in the prime position to allow us earthlings (actually, mostly us North American earthlings) this awesome spectacle.
The perfect mix of lunar size and distance from earth is a key here. The moon looks to be the same size in the sky as the Sun (it’s 400 times closer, while being about 400 times smaller), so that makes the totality so spectacular.
But don’t take that for granted — the moon is moving away from the earth by about an inch and a half per year. The day is coming when the moon won’t seem big enough to block out the whole solar disk. What are folks wearing those funny glasses going to do then?
As Ginger Rogers partnered with Fred Astaire dancing on the silver screen — she did everything he did, only backward, wearing high heels — the moon is the uncelebrated partner in this duet. Let’s give it a nod in this celestial masterpiece.