Eclipses explained

5 things you didn’t know about Totality

Why is Totality so enthralling? And why does your cat not care?

When the Moon totally eclipses the light from the Sun, that’s Totality. It’s an ethereal, other-worldly thing to witness. Here are five facts about totality and what you need to know about the ‘white flower’.

1 – Eclipses are not about ‘darkness in the day’

OK, so the sky suddenly going dark during the day is strange and exciting, but when the Moon exactly covers the Sun’s disk for a couple of minutes you can see its crisp, white corona with the naked eye. It briefly looks like what it is: a close-up of the surface of a brilliant white star alone in space.

2 – Totality is totally safe

You must wear eclipse glasses for the partial phases, about an hour on either side of the main event, but for Totality itself, you absolutely MUST take them off. Otherwise you’ll miss seeing the glory of nature’s most stunning sight of all. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise; they are eclipse crooks!

3 – The light turns silver just before Totality

When about 95% of the Sun is partially eclipsed, the light levels begin to drop, and just before Totality everything sinks into silver. Shadows are stark. All looks odd. If you’re a photographer who constantly thinks about light levels and the ‘blue hours’ near dawn and dusk, you’ll be utterly enthralled … and you’ve still got Totality to look forward to.

4 – Animals don’t care about eclipses

Do birds roost in the gathering gloom before Totality? It has been known, and zoos are always wary of rapidly dropping light levels, but mammals generally don’t react. OK, so we’re basing this on anecdotal evidence and personal eyewitness accounts, but cats and dogs don’t notice. Nor do ducks, sheep, or ponies react.

5 – Totality is the Earth System lining-up

The moment Totality begins, all the components of our Earth System – Planet Earth, the Moon, and the Sun – are in perfect alignment, which technically speaking is called syzygy. The celestial line-up has absolutely no physical effects on anything; this is merely nature at its dazzling best.

Photo credit: Gill Carter