The Truth about the August 21st Solar Eclipse

Thanks to the overhype and crass commercialization of the next eclipse–on August 21, 2017–what was once a cool astronomy event has been cheapened into a mere tent circus featuring aggressive profiteers swinging from every rope.

Many hotels along the eclipse’s path have ramped up their prices; companies have sold eclipse-viewing spaces in their parking lots; people are renting out their driveways and yards to eclipse watchers; businesses are creating ticketed($) eclipse-viewing events; and other profiteers are selling “eclipse-themed” mugs, coasters, pens, shirts, hats, and other novelties. Why so much hype and commercialization?

The news media, as well as some business enterprises, have sold people a bill of goods. And in today’s society, where critical thinking has become such a daunting task for so many people, they have (predictably) grabbed the eclipse bait–hook, line, and sinker. P.T. Barnum’s now-famous statement, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” applies here. It all centers on a big lie that makes the event appear more unique, and perhaps more grandiose, than it really is. But rather than editorialize about profiteers making a fortune off of America’s gullible, I am going to focus on the actual eclipse and what it really means. Continue reading; it might save you time and money.

– The big lie: A once-in-a-lifetime event? False. It happens every so often, and quite frequently. I have seen several in my lifetime. August 21st will be the next one, and still others will occur in the future; if you are old enough to read this, you will likely see a few of those, too. Eclipses are somewhat rare, but they are not “once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” as those who want your money would have you believe.

– Special glasses? Yes, you need them to view the eclipse, otherwise you will run the risk of a burned retina, which is a very serious ophthalmological condition. The big screw: Some companies have tried to sell bogus eclipse glasses; and a few others are charging your arm, your leg, and your firstborn for a legitimate pair. Actually, a reasonable price is $2-$3. Some store chains, such as Daily’s in Nashville, give away real eclipse glasses for FREE. Do some research and save some money if you can find such a deal in your locale.

– The eclipse can be seen from anywhere along its path, and not just from locations where you must PAY to watch it. Also, you do not have to wear an eclipse t-shirt or hat in order to see it, as some of the profiteers would have you believe.

The bottom line: Pick yourself up a free pair of eclipse glasses (if you can find some–otherwise spend a couple dollars), and on eclipse day, simply put them on and watch it from your living room window, your driveway, your yard, your employer’s parking lot, or wherever you happen to be at the time. The eclipse is FREE and easily viewable from anywhere along its path–assuming the clouds stay away. If you miss it, don’t freak out–there are plenty more eclipses on the way!