Since the total solar eclipse does not have a publicist, I wanted to remind you that it is happening today. (That would be Wednesday if you're in China, which, due to the time difference is effectively Tuesday night in the US. I know. It's confusing.) At over six and a half minutes, it will be the longest solar eclipse of the 21st century. View it here at NASA's site. Click through to China's National Astronomical Observatory. China will be live webcasting the eclipse as it happens over Shanghai tonight at 9:35pm Eastern Daylight Time, or 6:35 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
For us here in Los Angeles, the Griffith Observatory will also be broadcasting the eclipse on live webcast on a big screen at one of their exhibit halls. Go there for the serious interplanetary geek action. The webcast timeline is:
5:24 pm PDT — First Contact
(When the moon first begins to obscure the sun)
6:37 to 6:43 pm PDT — Totality
(When the moon completely covers the sun. “Totality”–isn't that an awesome word? Astronomers have the best lingo. Seriously.)
8:03 pm PDT — Last Contact
It would have been cool if the sun and moon would oblige us here in the West, but sadly we won't be seeing anything dramatic in LA. Still, the beliefs about eclipses are deliciously wacky and poetic at the same time. You might mention these superstitions and myths, casually, in conversation.
- In Hindu mythology, two demons (Rahu and Ketu) are said to swallow the sun during an eclipse, “snuffing out its life-giving light and causing food to become inedible and water undrinkable”
- The Aztecs believed that if a pregnant woman is exposed to an eclipse, her baby will have a cleft lip or palate, because a bite is taken out of the moon.
- Eclipses are symbols of “obliteration, fear, and the overthrow of the natural order of things.” The word itself comes from the Greek word for “abandonment.” The sun literally abandons the earth.
Oh, and extra points if instead of “Total Solar Eclipse” you go around today saying “TSE” instead. As in, “Man, the TSE totality won't be viewable in LA today. How jacked up is that?”