Enjoy the Eclipse, but watch out for the cosmologists and druids!


Ahead of tomorrow’s total eclipse of the Sun visible from a large part of the USA, I can’t resist sharing this excerpt from The Times warning about the consequences of a mass influx of people to Cornwall for the total eclipse of the Sun that was visible on August 11th 1999, almost 25 years ago. No doubt there are similar things going around about tomorrow’s eclipse:

I did write a letter to the Times complaining that, as a cosmologist, I felt this was very insulting… to druids. They didn’t publish it.

Anyway, I did get to see the total solar eclipse of 1999, not from Cornwall (where it was overcast and rainy) but from the island of Alderney (one of the Channel Islands). There was quite a lot of cloud cover in the morning of the big event so I was expecting to be disappointed. Indeed, the very start of the eclipse was hidden by cloud and there were groans from the large crowd assembled to watch it. A few seconds later, however, the clouds parted and we got a wonderful view. One thing I remember very well is that it seemed to get much colder during totality. Another thing is that all the birds thought it was night already and started to roost, although it was only around 11am.

Here’s a (not very good and slightly damaged) scan of a picture from that eclipse:

Anyway, tomorrow (i.e. 8th April 2024) the total solar eclipse crosses North America with parts of 15 states able to view it: the eclipse will first appear along Mexico’s Pacific Coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT, then travel across a swath of the U.S., from Texas to Maine, and into Canada. About 31.6 million people live in the path of totality. The path will range between 108 and 122 miles wide. An additional 150 million people live within 200 miles of the path of totality.

Do make the effort to see it if you can. It’s a remarkable experience that will live long in your memory. But watch out for the cosmologists and druids!

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