This year’s solar eclipse captured the attention of Idahoan’s and folks from all over the world. A swath of “totality” set to carve through Idaho attracted interested tourists from all over the country and world to witness the approximate two-minute event. Animation courtesy of Michael Zeiler provides a great perspective as the moon’s shadowy path passed over our great state. Totality occurred as close as Horseshoe Bend, Idaho and the astrological phenomenon did not disappoint!
Though there was still a sliver of light in Boise, the 99.5% coverage was pretty cool.
It got us thinking about eclipse related facts and this one fascinated us.
From Space.com’s Nola Taylor Redd
Eclipses have also provided the opportunity to search for other worlds. In the 19th century, scientists noticed that Mercury wasn’t traveling quite the way it was predicted to: The planet’s closest point to the sun in its orbit slowly shifted over time, slowly moving around the star. Scientists assumed that an unseen planet, which they called Vulcan, sat between Mercury and the sun, with the unobserved planet’s gravitational pull shifting Mercury’s orbit . When various eclipses hid the sun, astronomers searched in vain for the missing world. During the total solar eclipse of July 29, 1878, astronomers flocked to the United States’ Rocky Mountains to hunt for the hidden planet, but never found it.
It wasn’t until November 1915 that a young Albert Einstein killed off Vulcan for good when he presented his theory of general relativity. A massive body can bend and distort “space-time” (Einstein’s name for the fabric of reality, which weaves together three-dimensional space with time). As Mercury orbits the sun, the curvature of space caused by the sun’s gravity would cause the planet’s orbit to shift very slightly, Einstein’s theory predicted. According to general relativity, the curvature of space-time could explain the strange wobbles of Mercury far better than a hidden planet could.
In 1919, English astronomer Arthur Eddington traveled to the west coast of Africa to test another prediction that came from general relativity: that the path of light itself bends around a massive body. By studying how light from the stars behind the sun bent, Eddington and the eclipse provided observational evidence for Einstein’s complicated theory.
While for most people, a solar eclipse can be a once-in-a-lifetime, awe-inspiring sight, it is clear that these phenomena can also reveal a wealth of information about the universe.
The next coast-to-coast, total solar eclipse will take place on Aug. 12, 2045. This will be the highlight of the century, with a totality path more than 160 miles wide. Eclipse expert Michael Zeiler said this one will be particularly good since a wider totality means the eclipse lasts longer, over six minutes in this case. Major U.S. cities to witness this eclipse will include Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Colo., Tulsa, Okla., Montgomery, Ala., and Orlando, Fla.