Eclipse 2024: Science, the News, Faith, and Me

Ernest Wright/NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio's map, showing 'the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse, crossing from Oregon to South Carolina, and the 2024 total solar eclipse, crossing from Mexico into Texas, up to Maine, and exiting over Canada'. (2024)
Paths of 2017’s total solar eclipse and 2024’s. (Ernest Wright/NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

Next week’s solar eclipse won’t be total here in central Minnesota.

I’m not terribly disappointed, since the odds are that I couldn’t see it anyway. There’s rain in the five-day forecast. We need rain a great deal more than I need to see an eclipse of the sun. Still, it would have been nice.

In any case, this household is still under quarantine: which wouldn’t keep me from stepping outside, but having COVID-19 again leaves me feeling less than chipper. I’m wandering off-topic.

Eclipses: Predictable, But Not Locally Frequent

Sagredo (2008), Cmglee's (2015) illustrations of eclipse geometries'. via Wikipedia, used w/o permission.
Solar eclipse geometries, illus. by Sagredo and Cmglee. (2008, 2015)

Eclipses of the sun, total and otherwise, happen fairly regularly. But they’re not all that frequent in any one place. The last total solar eclipse for the contiguous United States was in 2017, the next one won’t come around until 2045. Or so I gather.

The 2045 eclipse will follow a path similar to the one in 2017, so I suspect they’re both part of an eclipse cycle. But I haven’t researched that.

I have, however, put a few links to eclipse-related stuff at the end of this post. Some of it’s from my 2017 ‘eclipse’ post.1

Headlines, Religion, and Me

From my news feed, Thursday afternoon, April 4, 2024: ''For some Christians, a solar eclipse signals the second coming of Christ'.News coverage of this year’s total solar eclipse isn’t quite like it was in 2017.

Partly, I suspect, because this is an election year; so I’m seeing my country’s traditional verbal fewmet-flinging.

And that’s another topic. Or maybe not so much.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen “Christians believe” in my news feed, followed by the latest End Times Bible Prophecy.

And, although I suppose it’s inevitable that someone’s put an apocalyptic spin on this year’s eclipse, at least the headline I noticed said “…some Christians…”.

Maybe word’s getting around that we’re not all gullible marks, eagerly waiting for someone with Bible bits, imagination, and a not-unreasonable confidence that the last fizzled End Times Bible Prophecy is long-forgotten.

I’m a Christian, and a Catholic, so I see a “religion” angle to next week’s eclipse: but it’s not some variation on the usual ‘signs in the sky’ prognostication. I’ll get back to that.

NASA’s Eclipse Chasers

If I was feeling less sick, I’d probably talk about this. A lot.

But I’m not feeling chipper, so I won’t.

A point I’d be making is that besides being a spectacular show, solar eclipses give scientists wonderful opportunities for collecting data. And occasionally uncovering something new. New to us, that is.

Which reminds me. I’ll probably be watching NASA’s eclipse broadcast online.

God, This Universe, and “Even Greater Admiration”

NASA/ESA's image, detail: LH 95 stellar nursery in the Large Magellanic Cloud. (December 2006) And 'scientific discoveries...greater admiration' quote from Catechism of the Catholic Church.I like living in an era when we’re learning a lot about this universe, fast.

Even if I didn’t, insisting that recently-uncovered data mustn’t be so because it doesn’t line up with preconceived assumptions isn’t an option.

That’s because I think God is large and in charge.

“Our God is in heaven and does whatever he wills.”
(Psalms 115:3)

And, again, I really like living in an era when we’re learning so much, so fast.

I also enjoy beauty. And I think truth matters. Happily, that’s part of being a Catholic.

Accepting truth and beauty is one reason I have no trouble with science.

Detail, Hubble Space Telescope's ACS' view of NGC 602 and N90. (July 14/18, 2004) from NASA/Hubble, used w/o permission. (NGC 602 is an open cluster of stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud.)No matter where we look in this universe, we’ll find truth and beauty. They’re expressed in words, “the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 32, 41, 2500)

They are also expressed in the visible world, where anyone who pays attention can see “the order and harmony of the cosmos”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 32, 2500)

Seeking truth and beauty will lead us to God. If we’re doing it right. (Catechism, 27, 31-35, 74)

“For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.”
(Wisdom 13: 5)

I’ve gone over this sort of thing before, probably will again, and I’d better move along.

God is infinite. Eternal. All-powerful. Incomprehensible. (Catechism, 1, 202, 268-269)

God creates and sustains a (basically) good an ordered world. And is present to all creation. (Catechism, 299-300, 385-412)

Although God is here and now in every here and now, God is not ‘inside’ space and time. (Catechism, 205, 600, 645)

This is where I’d start talking about secondary causes. (Catechism, 304, 306-308)

But that’s not going to happen this week.

Instead, I’ll wrap this up with the usual ‘vaguely related posts’ list:

1 Solar eclipses and cycle(s):

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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