The Solar Eclipse: Science, Astrology, and Myths

graphic design of a solar eclipse and woman in solar glasses gazes up
Luz Media

A solar eclipse of the sun will occur on April 8th, 2024 where it will be visible across Mexico and the United States, from Northern Mexico to Maine. The further South you go, the more visible the solar eclipse will be. The Hill Country of Texas and the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Coahuila, and Durango are the areas that offer the most visibility, but you can still catch the solar eclipse from cities in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Indianapolis, Ohio, and New York.

Cities in areas outside of the solar eclipse’s path of totality will still be able to see a percentage of it, from 17 to 63 percent. For example, Southern Californians will see a partial solar eclipse of up to 57% the farther south they are. You can check how much of the solar eclipse you’ll be able to witness on the National Eclipse website.

Whether you catch a total or partial solar eclipse, always ensure safety first - never look directly at the sun! Make sure to follow established guidance for the safest and best eclipse watching. Alternatively, you can tune into live coverage of the solar eclipse on platforms like Hulu and Disney+, or cable channels like ABC, NBC, and CNN.

Solar eclipses are among the most fascinating celestial events surrounded by enormous mystique. For thousands of years, civilizations across the world have interpreted solar eclipses in their own unique ways and integrated them into their religions, culture, and agricultural practices, so it’s no wonder they’re surrounded by myths and mystique. Not to mention solar eclipses also inspire scientific wonder and spirituality.

So what makes solar eclipses so fascinating? We explore.

Total solar eclipses have inspired fear

Eclipse photographyPhoto by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

In ancient times, a total solar eclipse was quite a scary thing to witness and there were many superstitions around it. Many cultures interpreted total solar eclipses as a sign of doom. Some even believed that they represented battles between celestial beings. From the Chippewa tribes shooting flaming arrows to the heavens to ward off disaster to Norse myths about Loki's antics causing eclipses, fear was the most common reaction to total solar eclipses.

Solar eclipses also had romantic interpretations

man and woman kissing under the sunPhoto by Alejandra Quiroz on Unsplash

At the other end of the spectrum, some cultures weren’t afraid of solar eclipses but actually had romantic interpretations of them. For example, in Australian Aboriginal mythology, the Sun and Moon represented lovers, so a solar eclipse meant that they were coming together. German and Tahitian myths also interpreted solar eclipses as moments of intimacy between celestial partners. That’s much better than the doom and gloom take, in our humble opinion.

Solar eclipses follow predictable cycles

solar eclipse photographyPhoto by Andrew Preble on Unsplash

As it turns out, eclipses can be quite predictable. Every 18 months or so, the Moon will get in the way of the Sun somewhere on Earth. Partial eclipses are the most common, where the Moon only covers a part of the Sun, and we get at least 2 of them per year. Total solar eclipses are the most rare, but they still happen every 2 or 3 years somewhere on Earth. Whether we can observe them or not depends on the location, and most of them happen in remote areas, often over the ocean.

There are different types of solar eclipses

Photo by Fahd Hasis on Wikimedia Commons

Yes, that’s right! There are four types of solar eclipses: total, partial, annular, and hybrid. What makes each of them different is the way the Sun, Moon, and Earth align, though it also depends on the location from where you’re watching. Whatever type of solar eclipse you happen to witness, it will be a unique experience that doesn’t happen very often.

The duration of solar eclipses varies a lot

May 20 2012 Solar Eclipse near Sunset Beach / Huntington Beach, CA - timelapse / composition of "phases" of the eclipse during the approximate 2 hour duration.

Photo by jimnista on Flickr

Solar eclipses may be predictable, but it’s very difficult to tell how long they will last. A total solar eclipse usually lasts a few minutes, but in some rare cases, they’ve lasted 7 minutes or more. What’s certain is that even if a solar eclipse only lasts a few seconds, watching its effect and the kind of eerie spectacle that it offers is unforgettable and awe-inspiring.

Solar eclipses have been important throughout history

silhouette of rock formationPhoto by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

A surprising thing about solar eclipses is that they’ve left quite a mark on history. Why? Because they’ve altered certain events in unexpected ways. For example, the ancient Battle of Halys, which is known as the Battle of the Eclipse, was actually interrupted by a sudden solar eclipse in 585 BCE. Eclipses have been shaping history in very interesting ways, so it’s fun to look back and see how they’ve led to certain outcomes.

Solar eclipses offer valuable scientific insights

telescope pointed at the skyPhoto by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

Solar eclipses not only have cultural significance, they’re also invaluable in the scientific community. For example, solar eclipses have helped researchers observe the outer atmosphere of the Sun, which has helped to expand our understanding of solar physics. Solar eclipses offer amazing opportunities to uncover more knowledge, so they’re exciting events for scientists studying the nature of space.

Solar eclipses offer moments for introspection

woman sitting on brown wooden dock during sunsetPhoto by freestocks on Unsplash

If you’re into astrology and spiritual wellness, solar eclipses are important moments to look out for. They’re considered to be times of intense energy, making them great moments for introspection and release. They’re also interpreted as times of profound change and transformation, so if you’ve been carrying something for a while, solar eclipses are an invitation to relax, let go, and embrace the new.

They’re ripe for personal reflection

woman sitting on bench over viewing mountain at sunsetPhoto by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

Whether you go all out and watch solar eclipses through a telescope or just watch from your balcony, the moment is perfect for personal reflection and meditation. Solar eclipses can have quite a contemplative effect, so they can be deeply spiritual experiences. They invite us to pause and reflect on our place in the universe, and we can find a lot of meaning in that. Especially in times when we feel disconnected from everything.

Solar eclipses can affect animals

silhouette photo of flying birdsPhoto by Lindz Marsh on Unsplash

If you have pets, you should keep an eye on them during a solar eclipse because it can cause some animals to be confused. This effect can be easily observed in birds. They will stop singing or tuck themselves away to sleep because they think it’s nighttime, and this can also happen with certain mammals! It’s nothing to worry about, just don’t be surprised if your pets start acting like it’s bedtime during a solar eclipse.

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Picture this: the grand arena hums with the electricity of expectation and the clamor of a thousand voices, all waiting for the spectacle of the age-old Mexican tradition of Lucha Libre, a wrestling style born in the heart of Mexico in the early 20th century.

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Women in Texas at the National Women's March, rallying against deadly abortion restrictions.
Lucy Flores

The landscape of abortion rights in the United States has become more restrictive than ever in recent history, particularly in Arizona and Florida, where recent developments represent a major setback for women’s reproductive rights. On April 9, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in a 4-to-2 decision to uphold an 1864 law banning abortion from the moment of conception. The only exception is saving the mother’s life, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest under this law.

Just a few days earlier, on April 1, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled in favor of upholding a 6-week abortion ban, which will take effect on May 1. This further reduced the legal threshold for abortions in Florida, which used to be 24 weeks of pregnancy before Republicans passed a law in 2022 banning abortions after 15 weeks. Both of these rulings have sparked intense debate and outrage about their impact on women’s rights.

Overview of the Near-Total Abortion Ban in Arizona

The Arizona Supreme Court voted to uphold an 1864 law, a law passed even before the state officially was a part of the United States of America, that makes all types of abortion illegal, including medication abortion, from the moment of conception. Though there are exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the ban makes no exceptions for cases of rape or incest and imposes severe penalties, including imprisonment, on medical professionals performing abortions.

Medical professionals have spoken out about how dire the situation will become for women with this near-total abortion ban. Dr. Jill Gibson, chief medical director of Planned Parenthood in Arizona, told CNN that this ruling will have “absolutely unbelievable consequences for the patients in our community.” She continued by saying, “Providers need to be able to take care of their patients without fear of legal repercussions and criminalization.”

Representatives from Arizona and other states across the country have also spoken up against this near-total abortion ban.

Video by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramVideo by Shontel Brown Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Image by Rub\u00e9n Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on InstagramImage by Rubén Gallego Member of the United States House of Representatives on Instagram

Until this Arizona Supreme Court decision, abortion had been legal in the state up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. The right to abortion via Roe v. Wade prevented the enforcement of the near-total abortion ban, but since a majority vote in the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe, those opposed to abortion rights had been fighting to enforce the 160-year-old 1864 law.

This new abortion ban in Arizona is not effective immediately as the court has paused its ruling for 14 days until additional arguments are heard in a lower court about how constitutional the law is. However, the law will likely come into effect in May, a few weeks from now. Planned Parenthood Arizona, the largest abortion provider in the state, will continue serving the community until the ban is enforced.

An Overview of Florida's Six-Week Abortion Ban

The landscape of abortion in Florida has also undergone a significant change with the enforcement of a 6-week abortion ban, replacing the previous 15-week limit. This ban, similar to Arizona's, severely restricts access to abortion care and poses a significant challenge to reproductive rights in the state. Providers are bracing for a public health crisis due to the increased demand for abortion and limited options for patients.

Practically speaking, a 6-week abortion ban is a near-total abortion ban because pregnant people often don’t even realize they could be pregnant by this early stage. Combined with Florida’s strict abortion requirements, which include mandatory in-person doctor visits with a 24-hour waiting period, it’s nearly impossible for those who may want an abortion to be able to access it before 6 weeks. Not to mention that fulfilling the requirements is particularly challenging for low-income individuals.

Video by theluncheonlawyer on InstagramVideo by theluncheonlawyer on Instagram

Moreover, this Florida law also restricts telemedicine for abortion and requires that medication be provided in person, effectively eliminating mail-order options for abortion pills. While exceptions for rape and incest exist in Florida, the requirements are also strict, asking victims to provide police records or medical records. For victims who don’t always report sexual violence for many different reasons, these exceptions don’t make a difference.

The consequences of Florida’s ban extend to neighboring states with more restrictive abortion laws. For instance, residents of Alabama, facing a total ban on abortion, and Georgia, with its own 6-week abortion ban, have relied on Florida for abortion services. That will no longer be an option, further limiting care alternatives.

The Road Ahead

These recent abortion bans in Arizona and Florida are a major setback for women's rights, particularly impacting Latina women who already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. These bans not only restrict women’s reproductive freedom but also endanger their lives.

Efforts to challenge these bans through legal means and ballot measures are ongoing, but the road ahead is uncertain. While there’s hope for overturning these abortion bans, the challenges of conservative laws and legal battles are formidable. The November ballot in both states will be crucial in determining the future of abortion rights and access for all.

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