Moonshade and Other Summer Surprises

By RICHARD C. ILSE | May 31, 2017

Got a minute? How about 1,440 of them? That may seem like a lot, but when you add them all up they equal a single day. This summer there is a day that may have you questioning time itself.

Imagine waking up in your backyard, or on the beach from a midday nap, and it looks kind of dark out. You check the time. It’s midafternoon, and then you look to the sky. The sun is there, yet it’s not! What on earth is happening?

Welcome to the first total solar eclipse visible only in the U.S. since our nation’s founding in 1776. It will also be the first total solar eclipse to sweep across the entire continental U.S. in 99 years, according to NASA. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets in the way of the sun, turning day into an eerie twilight. The path of the total eclipse is a swath about 70 miles wide, from Oregon to South Carolina. Viewers in New Jersey will see only a partial eclipse.

The day of the big event is Aug. 21, and even the U.S. Postal Service is celebrating it by releasing a “Total Solar Eclipse” forever stamp on the summer solstice, June 21. The stamp will have a high tech twist to it that’s never been done. It will use thermochromic ink, which changes color with heat and light.

Use your finger and rub the eclipse image and it will reveal an underlying image of the moon. Remove your finger and the image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools. The images were taken by retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak, a.k.a. “Mr. Eclipse,” in 2009 in Libya. The back of the stamp will also provide a map of the eclipse path so it will tell you exactly how close you are to it. It’s the best thing we’ve done to the moon since we went there!

As for other celestial celebrations this summer, our nighttime skies will offer up two distinct meteor showers. The first is called Alpha Capricornids and occurs from mid-July through early August, with the best night being on July 29. Although producing only a few per hour, what’s best about this shower is the bright fireballs it produces.

Then there is the Perseids meteor shower in August, peaking around Aug. 12 with a rate of 50 to 75 per hour. The Perseids are particles released from comet Swift-Tuttle during its numerous returns to the inner solar system.

Turning from space to time, this summer sets up as an average summer, lengthwise, in terms of how many days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The 4th of July, however, comes on a Tuesday, so if you do not already have it, put in for Monday off.

There are also other notable holidays you can put in for time off. I kid you not; you can look these up. First up is National Repeat Day (I said repeat day) on June 3, then National Chocolate Ice Cream Day on June 7, Sunglasses Day on June 27. In July, the 3rd is Disobedience Day (use that to call in sick on that Monday if needed). July 5 is National Bikini Day and then Relaxation Day is on the 15th. Then there is the most absurd one, Take Your Pants for a Walk Day on the 27th – now there’s an exercise in futility. In August another good day to take off is Just Because Day on the 27th.

So enjoy your summer and remember, on Aug. 21 you can wake to the sun twice.

Richard C. Ilse lives in Stamford, Conn., and vacations on LBI.


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