Perhaps two of the most mentioned astronomical events everyone raves about are meteor showers and solar eclipses. Among the years, stories are told of people driving halfway around the country searching for a 5-minute glimpse of glory in which the moon nearly swallows the sun’s light midday and drowns the earth in darkness. Luckily for Americans, both shows will be coming to our great nation this year, along with a special treat.
To kick things off, on Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be viewable as it travels from coast to coast across the United States. Its path will leave spectators amazed as a sunny day turns to instant darkness for a matter of minutes while the moon passes just in front of our view of the sun and blocks its light. According to National Geographic, the last solar eclipse in North America was in 1979; too bad many people were probably busy busting some moves on the disco floor and missed it.
Unfortunately for Georgians; however, the eclipses’ path will not be passing over the Peach State but will instead hike from Oregon to South Carolina. If you want to see this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it wouldn’t hurt to travel north to see such a sight. The kids in school almost certainly wouldn’t mind either.
On Dec. 13, a major meteor shower, called the Geminid Meteors, will be visible to most of America. This shower will reach its highest activity at night and will be best viewable after the moon sets around local midnight. According to National Geographic’s Andrew Fazekas, “The Geminids are known to be quite prolific, with rates as high as 60 to 120 shooting stars an hour at peak times.” Not a bad night to grab some popcorn and spread out under stars for a good show.
However, despite the amusement produced from such astrological wonders as a total solar eclipse, not much can compare to the major event taking place in the sky on Sept. 23. The constellation Virgo depicts a woman standing about the stars, and on Sept. 23, she is going to give birth. In Revelation 12 of the Bible, a passage tells of “-a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” This description of Virgo in the sky is about to come true. On this date, the sun will be within the constellation Virgo, the moon will appear beneath her feet, and nine stars (from the Leo constellation) plus Mercury, Venus, and Mars will crown her head.
Revelation goes on to tell us the woman gave birth to a male child, destined to rule the nations. This “child” is Jupiter, and over the course of the next months (November- September), it is preparing for its exit from Virgo. Now, the sun passes through Virgo every September, and the moon appears under her feet twice a year. However, the “crown of twelve stars” are a rare occurrence, and along with the other anomalies, make for an interesting landscape. The last occurrence of these events was September 1827, and before that, September, 1483. It is so rare, and yet does not seem to raise an eye in the astronomy community.
Christopher M. Graney, a professor of physics at Jefferson Community & Technical College in Louisville, KY, makes a good point in saying that people just don’t read the stars like they used to. “As it is, watching the heavens for sign of what is to come is a waste of time…And this is why astronomers ignore the seemingly momentous celestial arrangement of Sept. 23, 2017, and talk instead about black holes or whatnot.”