You can pinpoint the exact moment this summer that eclipse maps jumped the shark. At 4:43 p.m. Aug. 1, the Boston Globe tweeted out a map overlaying the path of the eclipse on a map of the 2016 county-level election results. “The path of viewing spots for this month’s solar eclipse cuts overwhelmingly through places that voted for Trump,” the Globe noted.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) August 1, 2017
The Globe's map prompted a torrent of ridicule. Aside from geographic coincidence, the eclipse's path of totality is not at all related to the results of the 2016 election. As the article dutifully noted, Trump won 84 percent of the country's 3,100+ counties — draw any arbitrary line across the country and you are virtually guaranteed that most counties in its path will have voted for Trump.
The Globe map's true legacy, however, lies with the myriad parody maps it inspired. Cartographer Joshua Stevens created a map of the best places to see the eclipse and a sasquatch at the same time. Eclipses and UFO sightings followed. Breweries. Waffle Houses. North Korean missile launches. Sad Jordans.
The Boston Globe taught the Internet that if you can put it on a map, you can put an eclipse over it. For that, we should all be grateful. Here at Wonkblog, we'd like to express our gratitude the best way we know how: with goats.
Behold, the eclipse mash-up none of us need but which we all truly deserve right now: goat population, derived from the 2012 USDA Agricultural Census. Taking the census's tally at face value, by our calculation there are approximately 172,000 goats residing within the path of totality, representing roughly 7 percent of the 2.6 million goats counted in that year's Ag Census.
Now, this is probably an undercount: The census only includes truly agricultural goat operations in its tally, so your typical backyard hobby goats are not represented here.
Still, if you want to see the eclipse and pet a goat at the same time (and who wouldn't!), this map suggests some options. You can find uncommonly high concentrations of eclipse goats near the Georgia/South Carolina/North Carolina border, as well as in central Tennessee.
Speaking of Tennessee, as part of the Post's wall-to-wall eclipse coverage on Monday, we will be live-streaming from a fainting goat farm in that state to solve the last remaining mystery of solar eclipses: Do they make fainting goats faint?
Incidentally, the next wave of the USDA's Agricultural Census is in the field this year. That means brand-new goat population estimates are right around the corner — just in time for the total lunar eclipse of Jan. 21, 2019.