by Theodore R. Frimet
The passing of the shadow
an “eglimpse” of the future
Well, my benefactor, once again, left a gift of a journal on the front table. There it waited patiently for the after event of another great Tuesday night lecture, at AAAP. I gingerly paged thru the tome, to my personal delight, and stumbled upon a really good article. Many well thought out pages were devoted to the human psychology and its limitations on being Mars bound. I dreamt of quoting a sentence, here and there, and interspersing my thoughts, as if to shed light on a topic that you, my dear amateurs, are already well versed and adept at. However, it was not to be. Although the veritable dog did not eat my homework, /i have cats/, I absentmindedly left this delicious magazine at an office site, far, far away.
And then our editor calls out, waiting patiently, once again for a submission. And I have to wrangle, nay slay the dragon of distraction, and ask, why, oh why has another month passed us by? I think out loud, with the sheer lunacy that you have come to know, “better that I lay down my armor, and give up my sword”. Then only by chance of true honesty, shall we find each other at the opposite ends of the habitat. Such is the destiny of vanquished minds, those intelligent wayfarers and educated planet bound explorers. Come, we should share the same outcome! Truly, my words shall separate us, as likely as it is, we would strangle each other on our voyage to Mars! Yes, please keep your distance, as we find this months substitute for prose, found in “A Hand Book of Solar Eclipses”, by Isabel M. Lewis, A.M., published 1924 by Duffield & Company. How non-profound, indeed!
Why speak of solar eclipses, so late in the night? At one o’clock in the ‘morn, I could not sleep. Tell me, then, what amateur astronomer does? Well, walk the walk to my back door and ponder the light on the lawn! Bear witness to the natural car beams that shew dual purpose. It both ruins the view to the nebulous and round, while shrieking its brilliant moon, with terminator, all aglow and with spurious detail. What better time to trip the light fantastic, and open a few pages of a copyright, dated from almost a century ago?
The pages, yellowed with time, list preface and twenty two chapters of well scripted lunacy. Where to start, is as good a question, as where best to end? Chapter IX gets the attention of the beast, as we shuffle off to page 36, and study the total solar eclipse of January 24, 1925.
Lewis starts right out of the gate and slaps me awake! Shouting from across 93 years, this author provokes me to study her time frame, that almost one hundred and twenty years had transpired, since the last totality observed from the Northeastern United States. She chides us into cognizance of the year 2024, which be just a smidge over a hundred years from her publish mark, that we will all share in our total eclipse, visible in New York, Pennsylvania, or New England, for that matter.
In tactical military intelligence, when one gives a dandy report, we remember to give the lay of the land. Our author goes to great extent to describe the boundaries, and paths of her “next January”. We find in this handbook a full accounting including the central line, shortest distances, and limits of the path. Contained within are saint like remarks, and best advice ever, “As the corona cannot be seen so long as the least percentage of sunlight remains and as the glory of the eclipse lies in the corona, it is advisable for this reason alone to get within the northern and southern limits of at least ten miles”.
Go forward and make observations, and be not faint of heart. Lewis reminds us of the June 8, 1918 eclipse that expeditions from Lick, Yerkes, and the United States Naval Observatory made, were accomplished in less than two minutes. Of similar time scope, were the eclipse of New Years Day 1889. And yet, some of us recall, more personally, from their more recent eclipse, of last years flavor, that weather held the upper hand. Clouds. Cloud parting. Clouds aggregating. Some areas snow, and travel to beat the snow resulted in natures cruel joke – that having sheltered in place provided a better view than driving a thousand miles to try to beat the impending storm.
I flip the tattered page reading the circumstances of the Total Eclipse of January 24, 1925 for Principal Towns within the limits of Lewis’ eclipse. Many of the numbers read well into the hundreds of miles distance to the nearest edge of the path. And then, it stares me right in the face. Newark, New Jersey, having only 5 miles to the edge, was blessed with a 99% magnitude, at the eighth hour Eastern Standard Time, with the greatest eclipse occurring at 9h 11m, and ending at partial eclipse at 10h 29m. Noteworthy contenders to our domain lists Trenton, our nearest neighbor, at 50 miles to the edge, as was Philadelphia Pennsylvania at 80 miles with approximate magnitude.
Isabel M. Lewis closes her chapter on the Eclipse of January 1925, never to suggest that we stay at the opposite ends of the scientific habitat. However, that we continue to extend to ourselves the hope, that the “weatherman will not fail to provide a suitable setting for the scene”. To wit, I distill the bile for you, and yield hope to all Amateurs, that our mission to Mars will not be fraught with the perilous Void, filled with deadly cosmic rays, or left to be beaten into submission by our monkey instinct. We will adapt. We always have. It will be known as the passing of the new shadow on the human race. The Void be damned, as the March of the Monkeys continues!