Sunday, April 21, 2024

PHALON’S FILE: A Different Kind of Sun Block

When viewed through the proper equipment, this is how the Sun will be obscured by the Moon
over North Warren during the April eclipse. Never look directly at the Sun. Never. Ever. Photo
by NASA, 9/2023

In other news… Save the date: April 8, 2024. You’ll want to be in Youngstown, Buffalo, Toledo, Akron or pretty much anywhere along the New York Thruway west of Syracuse.

“Why the hell would I want to go there, Phalon?!? It’s the middle of the Rust Belt!”

Yeah, but for the afternoon of April 8 of next year, that swath of the once-mighty Heart of Industrial America will be the center of the universe when a total solar eclipse of the sun sweeps across the United State from Texas to New England.

Unlike the so-called Great American Eclipse of 2017, the Rust Belt Eclipse of 2024 will be much closer, and for you, dear reader, totality will be just a three-and-a-half-hour drive away from Northwest Jersey.

In the path of totality, the Sun will look like this with the proper equipment. It can’t be said enough: Never look directly at the Sun. Seriously. Never. Photo by NASA, 9/2023.

What’s totality you ask? Good question. For those not quite familiar with quantum mechanics, well, I can’t help you. Such knowledge is not necessary, however. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, resulting in a shadow of total darkness that races across the Earth’s surface.

Doesn’t the Moon pass between the Earth and Sun every 28 days you ask further? Yes, but the Moon orbits Earth at a slight angle in relation to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

A solar eclipse happens only once every couple of years, when the planets line up, so to speak. The area of totality is where the sun is completely blocked for up to five minutes, and during that time total darkness descends upon the land.

During the 2024 eclipse, the swath of darkness will begin in Texas and move northeast, covering San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. It will continue across Arkansas, southeast Missouri and southern Indiana.

The shadow of totality will continue over the heart of the Rust Belt, areas not
considered places for recreational visits for decades. Buffalo and Cleveland, this will be your big chance to shine!

In 2017, small towns and big cities that lay in the path of that eclipse saw a short burst of tourism. Host communities turned the eclipse into days-long festivals.

Next spring you won’t have to fly your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the “total eclipse of the Sun.” Just drive your Chevy up to Syracuse, New York, where totality will happen at 3:23 p.m. The complete darkness will last about two minutes, when the Moon completely blots out the Sun.

But the eclipse itself will begin at 2:09 p.m. when the Moon first starts nudging its way across the Sun. Like a sunset, the light will fade until total darkness. The sunlight will then gradually return. The whole process takes about one hour and 23 minutes.

You really don’t have to worry about the weather. Even if it’s cloudy and raining, the surreal darkness will still drop over the land. And you should not be looking up directly at the sun, anyway. Ever. Period. It could permanently damage your eyesight.

Rest assured, as the time draws near, the Rust Belt Eclipse will become the biggest thing since the O.J. Simpson trial. Souvenirs and other remembrances will be in great supply, including people selling glasses they will claim make viewing the eclipse safe.

Don’t trust your eyesight to something sold at a dollar store.

So, make your plans today. You can experience a solar eclipse and be home for dinner.

P.S. Even if you stay put in North Warren, the eclipse will still be pretty spectacular. There won’t be total darkness, but for an hour or so, the sunlight will be diminished casting an eerie midday twilight.

And if you have the right equipment, you will be able to see the disc of the Moon move across the Sun. But that’s ONLY if you the proper viewing tools.

Never, ever look directly at the Sun. Even for a second.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.