Total Solar Eclipse – Nothing Comes Close

By now you must have, especially if you live in North America, read, heard or seen photos and videos of the total solar eclipse that occurred on the 8th of April, 2024. The path of totality went through Mexico, multiple states in the United States including Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, New York, then made its way into Canada and passed over southern Ontario, Quebec, and the east coast provinces. Much of the United States and Eastern Canadian provinces also experienced a partial solar eclipse.

This blog post is not for people looking for pictures or videos, nor is it for explanation of how eclipses work. I have written this as a form of public service to anyone who happens to read this. Please, if you ever get an opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse, you must take it!

Eclipses are not rare, not even in other parts of the solar system. Even on earth a total solar eclipse occurs every few years. The coincidence that amazes me is the ratio of the sizes of the sun and moon is roughly the same as the distances of the sun and moon from earth. That is the reason the sun and moon appear the same size on the sky and this the reason that during a total solar eclipse, the moon covers the sun completely, but not so much that we cannot see the outer atmosphere of the sun known is the corona. If the ratios were any different, either the moon would never be able to complete cover the sun, or the moon would entirely cover sun and the corona; and the corona is where the spectacle happens.

As I mentioned, total solar eclipses occur every few years, however, what is rare is to have one occur near you in your life time, unless you live a couple of hundred years, which currently no human does. But who knows, perhaps in the future, life spans will be long enough to witness multiple total solar eclipses. But for now, it is rare.

I have no photos or videos of the event for you. There are plenty of those floating around on the internet. But no amount of photos, or videos or descriptions, or the study of the physics behind a total solar eclipse prepares you for it. Nothing! Whether you are an intellectual or an artist, nothing and I mean NOTHING prepares you for it. No photo or video or article quantitatively or qualitatively truly describes it. I have seen multiple photos and videos both before and after witnessing the eclipse, and none of them come close to the real thing.

Also, a partial eclipse is NOT a total eclipse, not even close. I watched a CBC news report where a reporter is seen describing the eclipse as it is progressing in Toronto and at one point she says something a long the line, “We in Toronto will be getting a partial solar eclipse of 99.95%, so pretty close”. NO! Absolutely NOT close. Even 99.999999% is not 100%. The difference between the two is as stark is night and day.

I experienced a partial solar eclipse in 2017, and it was cool, it was amazing! I have no words to describe the total solar eclipse that I experienced. I keep saying ‘experienced’ because it is an experience. I cannot rightfully say ‘seen’. Because the sight, the sound, the feeling on ones skin, the emotional impact all combine to give one that experience. I was baffled, awestruck, hypnotized, so captivated by the moment that I forgot to take pictures. By the time I remembered, I fumbled to take a picture, I took at my camera and clumsily pointed it at the sun, and clicked. But the settings were all off. And at that moment, I told myself, it does not matter, I am here, I am experiencing it. I have regrets, a photo is not important, and looking at photos of videos available online, nothing will come close anyway.

It seems hyperbolic, but it is not. If anything, words only understate the experience. Because there are truly no words to describe it. It chances you. It evoked feelings and sensations that I have never experienced before.

There was a kid around, who, after it was over, could not stop screaming, “I can’t believe that actually happened”. He kept saying this over and over again.

Everyone describes it differently, and even though their description might not be how someone else would describe it, they will understand what the other person is trying to say. It is both an individual experience and a collective one.

One the 4-hour-drive back home, I teared up, and yet there was a sense of calm, a sense of gratitude, and a sense of being humbled and even as I write this, I feel it. It changes one in ways that is impossible to put in words. Nothing can and dare I say ever will come close.

Whatever I am saying here is far from a unique experience. I have been reading a lot about people’s experiences and the experience as a whole is a collective one.

It is my humble request, please, if you ever get a chance to experience a total solar eclipse, do make it a point to experience it. If you are not going to be getting one near you in your life time, and if you have the means to make it happen, meaning if you have the money, and health to travel, please do whatever is in your power to experience one.