County News

The Great American Cover-up

Cover-up” usually means deception or deliberate efforts to mask or hide unlawful or unethical behavior.  However, another and much more incredible meaning has been presented to hundreds of millions of Americans recently.  It all occurred in less than four minutes depending on your location. It occurred in an area about 70 miles wide arcing over all of the continental United States — from the west coast of Oregon to the east coast of South Carolina — from sea to shining sea. It is the greatest cover-up a human can witness.

The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 represents the covering up of the disc of the Sun by the disc of the Moon.  It is a truly amazing spectacle, which happens relatively often in the world, usually somewhere inconveniently located, like over the Pacific Ocean. However, this one was rare. The last one moving over the continent happened 99 years ago.

The HR Doctor is also, and has been since childhood, the HR Astronomer. Through a lot of planning, I am the owner of my own observatory and an array of high tech telescopes and cameras. There is hardly anything that I find more peaceful or a source of greater mindfulness and contemplation than sitting in my observatory on a clear night, coffee in hand and a K9 special assistant at my feet.  There I turn from mild-manner bureaucrat into an explorer and hunter of the sky.

Thousands of photos of hundreds of objects have occurred over the years. No celestial event, however, is more awe-inspiring and spectacular than a total eclipse of the Sun.  I look forward to seeing the eclipse first hand from a spot in lovely Transylvania County, N. C. near where Doctor Daughter Rachel’s medical practice is located.

Amazingly the disc of our one and only large natural satellite — the Moon — is essentially an exact “lens cap” cover equaling the circumference of the Sun when they line up.

This close fit is unprecedented in the solar system. In fact, even when our great, great grandchildren peer out at the Sun from Mars, or the Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, they will not find a total eclipse of the Sun available.

And so it is that these breathtaking total eclipses have triggered fear and a search for meaning throughout history.  The first recorded solar eclipse occurred in lovely downtown Mesopotamia in roughly 1223 B.C. This event “put the Sun to shame” as an ancient text noted. It was taken as a warning to the rulers — a portend of things to come which wouldn’t be very pleasant.

A 763 B.C. eclipse in Assyria marked an insurrection against the king. An eclipse in China in 1032 B.C. brought the same sense of dread and warning to its emperor.

Eclipses in A.D. 29 or A.D 33 were thought to coincide with the death of Jesus. Then again, the one in A.D. 569 marked the year of the Prophet Mohammed’s birth.

All of the past eclipses were in the pre-science era when peoples’ mythology and religious beliefs produced “explanations” for natural events, often with political motives behind them.  

Perhaps the most significant eclipse of the modern era occurred in 1919, “Einstein’s Eclipse.”  It marked the triumph of scientific observation and experimentation. It was accurately predicted in the scientific world and led to expeditions being dispatched to various parts of the planet to observe, confirm or refute Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.  Were its predictions about the effect of gravity on light correct or false? It turned out that the eclipse confirmed that gravity bent space-time just as professor, doctor, fiddle player and pipe smoker Mr. Einstein had predicted.

The 2017 USA eclipse is the first such event accessible to millions of Americans in so many parts of the country live, not to mention via TV networks, the internet and all of the various instruments manufactured by the Apple Corporation.

This is an event that should have led to school holidays throughout the area of visibility and to the chance for every little human on the planet to sit with grandpa and grandma, mom and dad, siblings and friends to watch, appreciate and learn about this most amazing of phenomena.

The best employers would have recognized this unique opportunity to show appreciation to the workforce and to allow as many people time off as possible.

Astronomy is the most magnificent of the sciences because it relates directly and historically to philosophy, religion, physics, math and much more. It is a tool to inspire children especially and to help shape their lives

The great cover-up of 2017 does not involve the appointment of a special prosecutor nor is it linked to any possible crime — except for one. That is the parental “crime” and employer “crime.”

Those occur when an opportunity as astounding as the total eclipse goes by without allowing adults and children being able to share the experience directly with people they love.

Contact the Editor

Bev Schlotterbeck
Executive Editor
(202) 942-4249
bschlott@naco.org