Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Hide and Seek' - on a Celestial Scale ; to Some, an Eclipse Is 'No Big Deal.' to Others, It's Pure 'Magic.'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Hide and Seek' - on a Celestial Scale ; to Some, an Eclipse Is 'No Big Deal.' to Others, It's Pure 'Magic.'

Article excerpt

A full, radiant moon beamed down on the dark silhouettes scattered around our small mountaintop. We were all looking toward the eastern sky over the Hudson River. Some of us had telescopes poised and ready. Children of various shapes and sizes were running back and forth in the bright celestial light, waiting for the "magic show" they had been promised that night.

Then, right on time, the eclipse began. At first there was just a hint of difference in the perfect roundness of the moon, as if a master artist was carefully erasing its outer edge with the finest tip of his brush. One tiny sliver after another was etched away, slowly, incessantly, until only half, a quarter, an eighth of the glowing orb was left.

By then, even the children were silenced in awe. Finally, the last vestige of brightness had disappeared, replaced by an eerie copper sheen.

"The moon's all gone." A small voice rose from somewhere in the darkness.

We all stood watching the empty sky. Then, it was as if the artist had changed his mind; No, that's not what I want, you could imagine him proclaiming. Once again he seemed to lift his magic brush, and in precise reversal of what had taken place only 40 minutes or so before, whited-in one lunar sliver after another until the perfect silvery sphere was restored in its full nocturnal glory.

The children - all awash again in moonlight - cheered.

Several days later, I asked Jeff, a friend, if he had watched the eclipse.

"What's so great about it?" he asked. "It's just the earth's shadow blacking out the moon for awhile."

Jeff is a mechanical engineer, scrupulous with facts and figures. He knew astronomy in the best of hard-core scientific terms. For him, moons and planets were just doing what the textbooks said they should. No big deal.

What indeed is "so great" for those of us who are perpetually awed at an eclipse? I asked myself.

Over and over throughout the history of our world, people of diverse cultures and nationalities have witnessed the same celestial event that we had watched that night. …

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