Patrick Wiggins may be right. I really did miss out. But the good vibe of humanity at Tooele City Library was far more rewarding than an empty field somewhere in Idaho.
What I’m talking about is Monday’s big hullabaloo: the long-awaited, highly touted solar eclipse, which inspired you, me, and millions of other Americans to wear unfashionable, protective eyeware, and crick our necks for more than two hours to watch the Sun and Moon cross paths.
For days, I debated whether or not to jump into my car at 3 a.m. Monday and point the hood north to a remote spot near Rexburg, Idaho or Jackson Hole, Wyoming to experience solar eclipse totality. But heeding media warnings that traffic would be a mess, store shelves emptied, eateries packed — and not wanting to miss work — I instead chose to watch the 0.93 magnitude solar eclipse at Tooele City Library.
But I’m also talking about what Wiggins said in this newspaper — our local go-to expert for all things that fly around in the heavens, and who just happens to be an esteemed NASA ambassador — when he was interviewed by staff writer Mark Watson via cell phone while driving back to Utah from Idaho after the Sun and Moon did their show.
Wiggins indicated he felt sorry for people — like me and many others — who only saw a partial eclipse Monday.
“One person described that seeing a 90-percent eclipse is kind of like driving your family 90 percent of the way to Disneyland,” Wiggins said, who has now witnessed six total eclipses. “I describe it as driving to Symphony Hall and trying to hear the symphony from the parking lot.”
Then he added, “It took me 5 1/2 hours just to go 143 miles from where I was in Idaho to Tremonton.”
When I read that quote in Watson’s front-page story about the eclipse in Tuesday’s edition, I felt a tinge of confirmation for skipping the 3 a.m. drive on Monday.
Better yet, I’m glad I did, because watching the partial solar eclipse with about 700 children, teens and adults on the south lawn at Tooele City Library heightened the experience tenfold. As the Moon slowly covered most of the Sun, and the daylight dimmed from bright to muted tones, the shared excitement between so many souls was palpable. The look of wonderment on so many faces gave hint that nobody seemed to mind, in the moment, to be witnessing only a partial eclipse.
I know I didn’t. It was magnificent, and how could it not be? It’s not every day the Moon, which is 2,159 miles in diameter and 238,900 miles away from Earth, and the Sun, which is 864,576 miles in diameter and 93 million miles away from Earth, miraculously cross paths — and to our amazement. Even more intriguing, is it mere coincidence the Moon is just the right size to obscure the Sun from the surface of the Earth during an eclipse?
Which is why I agree with Wiggins, who said to see a total eclipse “is a visceral experience to have the Sun disappear and turn into a black hole surrounded by the Sun’s corona. … People put together their bucket lists, and I know skydiving is on a lot of those lists, but seeing a total eclipse should certainly be on everybody’s bucket list.”
By choice, I didn’t get to see Monday’s total solar eclipse, but I did get to warm a seat for the next one. According to NASA, a total solar eclipse will occur on Aug. 12, 2045, and this time, Tooele County will have a front-row seat to the full show, the real deal, the whole shebang.
Let’ see now. If I live that long, I’ll be 86 years old then. Other than being dead, if nothing comes along to alter my schedule, I plan on being there, too, right at Tooele City Library.
I can’t wait. See you there?