By Bill Derby
I’ve been fascinated by space since watching Flash Gordon movie serials between the main features shown at theaters in the 1950’s. Buster Crabbe played Flash Gordon who was continually having issues with ‘Ming,’ his adversary in each episode. These short films always ended right at the most exciting moment to make sure you came back to the same theater to see what happened in the next Flash Gordon serial.
With a name like Buster Crabbe, Ming didn’t have a chance. I never could figure out why Flash’s spaceship dropped flaming fuel out of the rocket engine in outer space where there is no gravity. The special effects guys in the 1930’s didn’t have the technology to make the exhaust float in space. But, then again, we knew nothing of space in those days.
Russians reportedly stole the whole kit and kaboodle of Flash Gordon films to design their own space program.
In Johnson City we will all be waiting anxiously for the celestial show coming our way Monday, Aug. 21st with the total eclipse giving us a darkened display starting at 1:07 pm and lasting until 4:00 pm with the darkest at 2:36 p.m. Be sure not to look directly at the eclipse. Wear official eclipse dark glasses. Even a little exposure will damage your eyesight.
I’ve seen some celestial phenomena in my day to include meteor showers, aurora borealis (northern lights) and the Hyakutake comet in 1996 while living in South Dakota. I also got to see my Norwegian buddy, Carsen Aasen fly his hot air balloon all over Montana and South Dakota, a considerable celestial phenomenon.
According to experts, it will be almost a total eclipse in the Johnson City area. If you have a pet, they may head to bed early. Animals can be more sensitive to natural phenomena than humans. My dogs were sensitive to UPS trucks driving through our neighborhood. Both barked at the UPS truck long before I heard it bouncing down our street.
There are also people who chase after solar phenomenon. They are called umbraphiles: “shadow lovers.”
Other important facts I found during eclipse research are listed and quoted below
“This eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse to be visible in the lower 48 states since February 1979 back when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” was atop the music charts. It will be the first in 99 years to sweep from coast to coast.”
“If you are an umbraphile, the next total solar eclipse won’t come our way again until 2024.”
According to some scientists and astronomers you could… “Literally Cry.”
“The event has an indescribable effect on observers. While most experienced astronomers would concede that a total solar eclipse is the most powerful, gorgeous, and even life-altering of all celestial phenomena, a solar totality often invokes involuntary gasps and cries of wonder. You’ll often hear that some kind of “feeling” accompanies the visual spectacle. Perhaps this has to do with the fact these events are accompanied by large changes in the amount of incoming electromagnetic radiation.
No discussion of totality should omit the strange science lurking behind it. It starts with a bizarre coincidence: the moon is four hundred times smaller than the sun, but it also floats four hundred times nearer to us. This makes the two disks in our sky appear to be the same size.
Now, if the moon appeared larger than the sun, it could still occasionally stand in front of it, but it would also blot out the dramatic prominences along the sun’s edge, those geysers of pink nuclear flame. So for maximum amazingness, these bodies must have identical angular diameters—i.e., they must appear to be the same size. And they do.”
1. During the total eclipse, experts say you can expect to see jets and ribbons of light in the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, twisting and curling out into the sky.
2. Wildlife experts say birds return to roost and fall silent. Cicadas may stop singing and crickets may sing their night songs. Mosquitoes may come out to bite during moments when the sky darkens. A Victorian-era scientist noted during an eclipse that ants that were “busily carrying their burdens, stopped and remained motionless till the light reappeared.”
3. Animals can become confused, and nocturnal animals may awaken and become active. Bats may take flight. A journal article published by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences reported that captive squirrels became agitated, butterflies disappeared, turtles hid, chickens huddled together and cows were “unconcerned.”
4. Solar-powered equipment will take a brief hit, and solar-sensitive equipment set to come on at dusk may turn on.
5. During totality, stars will be visible, as will the planets Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter.
6. Then again, China also produced the first known astronomical recordings of solar eclipses, inscribed in pieces of bone and shell called “oracle bones,” from around 1050 B.C. or earlier.
7. By comparing those ancient records with modern calculations of eclipse patterns, scientists have determined that the day is 0.047 second longer today than it was back then.
8. Tidal friction, which causes that lengthening of the day, is also making the moon drift away. In about 600 million years it will appear too small to cover the sun, and there will be no more total solar eclipses.
In conclusion, it’s my opinion that Rod Stewart wrote his hit song, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” especially for Jimmy Carter while Stewart was under the influence of a total eclipse.