Scientists can predict solar eclipses about 1000 years into the future. But no one could have predicted in 1117 the hype, the hoopla, the hucksterism, and just plain hooey surrounding the eclipse that will appear in American skies on August 21.
It’s the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse of the sun will cross most of the continental United States, and the hundreds of small towns and out-of-the-way hamlets lucky enough to be in its way are cashing in on the phenomenon in a big way.
Travelers from around the world will descend on places like Riverton, Wyo., Carhenge, Neb., Cedar Lake, Ill., and Long Creek, S.C., to get the best views of the event. In cities like Jefferson City, Mo., and Salem, Ore., hotel rooms are at a premium. Campgrounds from the Northwest to the Southeast are doing land office business. And tens of thousands more will sleep in their cars or pitch a tent along the roads of America just to get a glimpse of a total eclipse.
A small sampling of eclipse hysteria that will only get worse the closer we get to August 21:
- There’s an epidemic of fake eclipse glasses that not only separate suckers from their money but are also incredibly dangerous to the eyes. Amazon has actually reached out to customers who bought possible fake eyewear and is offering refunds.
- State transportation officials are worried about the traffic jams in usually low-traffic areas and are warning people not to stop in the middle of the road to take a selfie during eclipse totality.
- There will be a party at Fort Hays State University’s Sternberg Museum of Natural History. BBQ and ice cream will be available. Unfortunately, you have to bring your own.
- The Post Office is issuing an eclipse stamp. “On the front of the stamp is a solar eclipse, and upon touch, it changes into an image of the moon. The image transforms back into an eclipse after cooling.”
- A sun worshiper on Craigslist needs “help” to conceive an eclipse “superbaby.”
- At least 5 music festivals will be underway during the eclipse.
I live about 150 miles from totality but having seen a total eclipse in 1970, I lack the motivation to make the trip. Here’s a map of how the eclipse will cut a swath across the US.