By now, countless Americans are eagerly mapping their proximity to the “path of totality.” No, not the possible trajectories of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, lately much in the news. This path of totality refers to a far less threatening and far more joyous event: the moon’s total eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21 in a 70-mile-wide swath in which darkness will snuff out daylight for two minutes or so as it glides across 14 states, silencing the birds and bestirring the humans.
Far from thoughts of “fire and fury” raised by President Trump, this occasion will offer the alternative of simple, wondrous fun in witnessing the first total solar eclipse in 99 years to go coast to coast, from Oregon to South Carolina. In this, American skywatchers are sensing more cosmic delight than intimations of national greatness.
For weeks, the eclipse has been sparking imaginations and inspiring plans for witnessing it firsthand. Favored perches, party plans and tourist packages abound across the path. Masses of Americans are expected to be on the move to get closer to totality.
The path stretches like a ribbon from the official NASA Solar Fest site in Madras, Ore., to rooftop hotel bars in Columbia, S.C. That city, anticipating an influx of hundreds of thousands of tourists, is bragging mightily that it is the ultimate terminus of the path of totality (“Close is not close enough,” goes the city’s pitch.)
But to wonder at it all does not necessarily require totality. Neighboring states and countries will experience partial eclipse — 70 percent or so in New York (the Meh Eclipse? Not for the crowds expected in Central Park). Less than total will still be remarkable, up through Canada and down through Latin America, as daylight ebbs at the wrong time.