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Chasing the Path of Totality

A total solar eclipse is a rare, beautiful phenomenon: a brief moment where the moon moves completely in front of the sun and in its wake, turns day into night. While a total solar eclipse theoretically can appear somewhere on Earth once every 18 months, a totality’s rarity stems from the fact that a specific location will only experience a “path of totality” once every 375 years (Kluger and Tweeten, 2017). Many people witness partial eclipses throughout their lifetimes, but a total solar eclipse is an experience like no other.

When the moon moves directly in front of the sun, mid-day suddenly turns into midnight. The world holds its breath for a few minutes as a black disk with an otherworldly halo is the only thing suspended in the sky (Smith, 2019). Eclipse chaser Babek Tafreshi observes the profound adjustment of nature to the world’s sudden darkness: “Starting a couple of minutes before totality, birds fly to their nests, a sudden odd silence falls, and insects jump out to celebrate the brief night” (Tafreshi, 2017).

The path of totality is very narrow, due to factors such as the moon’s elliptical orbit. As a result, the path covers less than one percent of the Earth’s surface (Tafreshi, 2017). Thus, a total solar eclipse becomes an elusive, yet highly sought after phenomenon, intoxicating eclipse viewers with just a few minutes of total darkness. Countless legends and stories from around the world describe this rare event: the immortal Rahu swallowing the Sun, the sun god Inti expressing his wrath (Petruzzello). If the opportunity arises to witness a total solar eclipse, be sure to seize it and not let it pass! A temporary, beautiful world awaits.

Works Cited

Kluger, Jeffrey and Lon Tweeten. 2017. “Why Total Solar Eclipses Are So Rare.” Time,

Petruzzello, Melissa. “The Sun Was Eaten: 6 Ways Cultures Have Explained Eclipses.”

Smith, Ian. 2019. “The What: A Solar Eclipse.”, August 17, 2019.

Tafreshi, Babak. 2017. “Chasing Eclipses Across 7 Continents.” National Geographic,

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