The eclipse is near (21 August 2017) and there’s still time to chase it down, get in the movie mood or order something to help set it in your sights for your own movies. It is, however, a couple hundred years too late to use a total solar eclipse as the means for appearing magical unless you get into a time machine and end up somewhere like King Arthur’s court.
What is special about this total solar eclipse is that it will sweep over the US from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. The last time that happened was June 8, 1918. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the continental US was 1979.
The last time a US state had a front-row seat to a total eclipse was Hawaii in 1991.
There are three types of solar eclipses: partial, hybrid, total and annular. Most of the US will be able to see a partial eclipse, when only part of the sun is covered by the moon as if some celestial being is taking a bite out of the moon. An annular eclipse is when the moon covers the center of the sun, but leaves a fiery golden ring exposed. A total eclipse is when the moon completely covers the sun with only the corona visible. A hybrid is something in between a total and annular.
Wherever you like, check out the handy app that NASA has to know the exact time and exact appearance using its free eclipse app, Eyes on the Eclipse (eclipse2017.nasa.gov/nasas-eyes). You can even check out views from other places in the solar system. If you’re lucky, and you live in the path of the total eclipse, then you’ve probably heard about preparations. Some of NASA’s current and former employees have been planning for over a year, getting in before the prices skyrocketed.
Dr. Tom Spilker, who worked at JPL for 21 years as a principal space flight mission architect, and his wife, Dr. Linda Spilker, a Cassini mission project scientist, are going to Boise solar eclipse party with family and friends. For Spilker, this is his second eclipse viewing and Linda’s third eclipse chasing vacation. Weather resulted in disappointment for Linda; hopefully the third time’s a charm.
Spilker was luckier when in 1979, he was in the February cold of Helena, Montana. He hadn’t met Linda at that time and went chasing with colleagues who were, like him, working and living in Houston at the time. At 7 o’clock on the morning of the eclipse, the weather was completely overcast, “except for a little hole, south or southwest.” They drove to get underneath that hole but “five minutes before, all the clouds we could see had dissipated” for a beautiful view.
His advice: Go for dry climates. That’s why his choice is Idaho (Boise) over the humid inland St. Louis, Missouri or the coastal Newport or Salem, Oregon.
Kevin Hussey, manager of the Visualization Technology Application and Development group at JPL-NASA, also chose Idaho for a special NASA-sponsored event. In Idaho Falls, collaborating with the Museum of Idaho, Hussey will be part of a four-day weekend long event that includes a speaker series (NASA’s director of the Planetary Science Division, Dr. James L. Green; lead study architect for JPL’s Innovation Foundry’s A-team, Dr. Randii R. Wessen; director of Astrovisualization at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Carter Emmart and Hussey) and movies (“Apollo 13” on Friday, “The Martian” on Saturday and “Contact” on Sunday) screened in Idaho Falls’ 1919-built Colonial Theater.
In case of cloudy weather, NASA has its own back up plans–planes will fly above the cloud level. That as well as the importance of solar eclipses for scientists is explained by a new PBS documentary,”Eclipse Over America” (Monday, Aug. 21, 9 p.m.). Total eclipses allow scientists to view and study the sun’s corona and its solar flares. The NOVA event includes live Facebook event from near Irwin, Idaho, and footage from that day’s eclipse will be included in that evening’s “Eclipse Over America.”
If you act quickly, you can also try buying your own equipment from the Irvine-based Meade Instruments (which is participating in Astro-Con in Casper, WY Aug. 16-19). Just for this year’s total solar eclipse, the company is offering affordable EclipseView binoculars ($69.99) and white light telescopes ($79.99 to $189.99). The EclipseView line comes with solar filters that can be removed for usage at nighttime. For more money, a Meade Coronado personal solar telescope which is allows you to see only hydrogen-alpha light will give you more detail.
NASA warns that is it never okay to look directly at the sun and, in addition, there are some unsafe eye wear being sold (https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety). To be safe, refer to American Astronomical Society (AAS) Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewer. Check with your local children’s museum for events and activities if you can’t head up to Idaho Falls or Casper, WY.
Eclipses figure in folklore, fiction and films. Some cultures thought that the sun was being eaten from creatures like bears, frogs, dogs, wolves or dragons . In Chinese and Japanese, the word for solar eclipse is literally “sun eaten.” In Japanese mythology, the sun goddess Amaterasu was so angry with her brother, she didn’t slam doors, but she hid herself away in a cave. The other gods got her back out by having a party that included drinking and dancing.
On film, there have been three adaptations of Mark Twain’s 1889 novel, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” including one that starred Bing Crosby. Other fictional films with solar eclipses (“The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” and “Into the Woods” feature a lunar eclipse) include:
- Penumbra (2012): An Argentinian horror film about a woman who rents a room to a creepy guy who has connections with the solar eclipse. Available on Amazon Video.
- The Tree of Life (2011): Terrence Malick’s dramatic fantasy film of story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956 that stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain. Also available on Amazon Video.
- Here Comes the Bride (2010): A fantasy comedy from the Philippines about five people whose souls switch during a solar eclipse that occurs while they are preparing for a wedding.
- Apocalypto (2006): Mel Gibson’s adventure drama about the decline of the Mayan kingdom and human sacrifices. Available on disc at Amazon.
- Children of Men (2006): In this science fiction thriller, women are mostly infertile. One woman manages to get pregnant and an activist agrees to take her so sanctuary. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen. Nominated for three Oscars. Available on Amazon Video.
- Casa de Areia (House of Sand, 2005): Taken by her husband to the desert in 1910, a woman is soon widowed and struggles to escape the sands of Maranhão, Brazil. In Portuguese.
- Naina (2005): In this Hindi horror flick, a woman receives an eye transplant and can see the supernatural. Available on disc at Amazon.
- Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith: Here the total eclipse symbolizes the Dark Side and the solar eclipse doesn’t happen on Earth. Available on Amazon Video.
- Vampires: The Turning (2005): This horror movie takes place in Thailand where an American muay-thai fighter helps vampire hunters track down a vampire lord. Available on Amazon Video.
- Darkness (2002): In this horror movie a young girl moves to a remote countryside house in Spain and bad things happen. Available on Amazon Video.
- Pitch Black (2000): This horror sci-fi movie features a commercial transport ship, blood-thirsty nocturnal creatures and a month-long eclipse. What could go wrong? Available on Amazon Video.
- In July (2000): This German-Turkish on the road romantic comedy movie features an eclipse at the beginning which symbolizes the meeting of Danny with Luna although it is Juli who pursues him and takes the road trip with him. In German.
- Pansion za Kuchta (2000): A once famous opera singer spend her days in a rundown villa where she shelters dogs. Daily the woman plays out her own death with visitors becoming unwitting participants. In Bulgarian.
- The 13th Sign (2000): In this British film, a young girl returns to the village where her father went berserk and killed people during a solar eclipse.
- The Mummy (1999): Brendan Fraser plays an American archeologist digging up trouble at the site of the ancient city of Hamunaptra. Available on Amazon Video.
- State of Dogs (1998): in In Ulan Bator, Mongolia, a stray dog who once roamed the steppes herding sheep is caught by a dog hunter who was hired to kill off the stray dog population. The dog’s soul prepares to be reborn as a human being on the day of a total solar eclipse in 1997. The myth of a dragon eating the sun is incorporated. In Mongolian.
- Out to Sea (1997): A romantic comedy with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as dance hosts on a cruise ship. Available on Amazon Video.
- The 5th Element (1997): In this sci-fi feature Bruce Willis plays a cab driver out to save the world. The fifth element is a sarcophagus in human form when combined with four stones that have the essence of the four classical elements can produce a white light that will defeat evil. The cabbie joins a special forces major ( Milla Jovovich) to recover the mystical stones. Available on Amazon Video.
- Dolores Claiborne (1994): In this adaptation of a Stephen King book, a woman returns to a small town where her mother has been accused of murder. Available on Amazon Video.
- Ghostbusters 2 (1989): In this sequel, the Ghostbusters are able to revive their business when a river of ectoplasm is discovered along with greatly increased spectral activity. The plot features a slime eclipse of the sun in New York. Available on Amazon Video.
- Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987): Christopher Reeve returns as Superman and crusades for nuclear disarmament, fighting Lux Luthor’s Nuclear Man. Superman causes an eclipse. Available on Amazon Video.
- Little Shop of Horrors (1986): Never shop at a Chinese nursery during a solar eclipse. Otherwise, you might find an alien plant form that eats people. This musical features Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin. Available on Amazon Video.
- Ladyhawke (1985): Captain Navarre and Lady Isabeau, have been cursed by an evil bishop. He turns into a wolf at night and she is a hawk during the day. Navarre asks a thief to help them break the spell. A solar eclipse helps save them all. Available on Amazon Video.
- The Doors (1982): Oliver Stone’s biopic of Jim Morrison and The Doors uses a total eclipse to comment on the characters spiritual quest. Stone previously used a lunar eclipse in the 2004 “Alexander.” Available on Amazon Video.
- Dark Crystal (1982): In the distant past on another planet, a Gelfling searches for the missing shard of a magic crystal to restore order in this adventure fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Available on Amazon Video.
- Barabbas (1962): Anthony Quinn stars in this story about a thief who was spared when Pilate pardoned him, but in his place, Jesus Christ was killed. Director Richard Fleischer shot the crucifixion scene during a totality on 15 February 1961.
- The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961): This science-fiction romance may have become suddenly timely. When US and the Soviet Union simultaneously test atomic bombs, the Earth’s axis of rotation is altered and a solar eclipse occurs over London a week ahead of schedule. Available on Amazon Video.
- Forbidden Planet (1956): Only two people survive on a planet’s colony and a starship crew from Earth find out why. With Alter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Richard Anderson and Earl Holliman. Available on Amazon Video.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949, 1931, 1921): The 1949 version with Bing Crosby is available on Amazon Prime Video. The 1931 version starring Will Rogers had a shorter title: “A Connecticut Yankee.” Harry Myers stars in the 1921 version.
- Fantasia (1940):This Disney animated features is a collection of interpretations of Western classical music. During “The Rite of Spring,” after the dinosaurs die, there is a total eclipse.
*Movie list compiled using Eclipseguy.com and IMDb.com.
#MusicMonday TOTAL ECLIPSE Klaus Nomi (January 24, 1944 – August 6, 1983)