On August 21 this year, the sun-eating dragon will make its appearance. And the spectacle is bound to be frightening, beautiful or frightening beautiful; depends on how you choose to look at it.
The word ‘eclipse’ has its origins in the Greek word meaning ‘abandonment’. Come solar eclipse, and the sun suddenly abandons the earth – light begins to fade, a disc of pure blackness slides across the face of the sun and the birds stop chirping altogether. In the early days, the ancient Chinese would bang on pots and drums and create a clamor, apparently to frighten away the dragon that ‘ate the sun’. Astrophysicist David Dearborn rightly noted: “In many ways it makes sense that eclipses would be seen as bad omens. For most early cultures, the sun was seen as a life-giver, something that was there every day, so something that blots out the sun was a terribly bad event, filled with foreboding.”
In a total solar eclipse like the one that is occurring this August, looking directly at the sun is akin to looking at moonlight. But beware – the rays can remain dangerously bright even though they may appear faint, so one should use special eclipse glasses while observing the sun.
From the point of view of science, this is what will happen in the total solar eclipse – the moon will pass between the earth and the sun and for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, blocking out all or part of the sun. According to Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate: “These cosmic moments where nature speaks to us in an emotional way, sometimes come loud, like thunderstorms, storms, hurricanes and earthquakes, but this one… will be silent. Day will turn into night and back again.”