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Why is the Total Solar Eclipse so “Awe”some?

Updated: Apr 8


By now you most likely know there will be an epic celestial occurrence in North America on April 8, 2024: The Great North American Total Solar Eclipse.


The totality of the eclipse will pass through Mexico, the U.S., and Canada as skywatchers observe the moon passing between the earth and the sun, and the moon’s shadow will result in unusual darkness here on Earth.


I am especially excited about this eclipse because I will be in the path of totality in Ohio. In Columbus, the eclipse will be from 1:55 PM - 4:26 EST, with the totality occurring at 3:12PM.


This eclipse is special for two reasons. First, the last time Ohio had a total solar eclipse was in 1806. Second, it is rare to have the path of totality in the U.S.


People often ask me questions about how cosmic occurrences, like a total solar eclipse, impact people’s behaviors. Interestingly, researchers from the University of California have examined social media to learn about this.


The researchers examined people’s Tweets during the 2017 eclipse as a way to analyze behaviors (they have an impressive research design, click here to read about it). They believed that witnessing an amazing natural phenomenon could be characterized in different ways.


They wanted to study the concept of “awe,” or “an emotion aroused by the sense that one is in the presence of something vaster than the self that defies current frames of reference for understanding the world.” They noticed people did have emotional reactions to the solar eclipse and they experienced a sense of togetherness with others (collective focus).


Their findings remind us that there are things greater than ourselves and that we as people do have the ability to come together to appreciate nature and each other’s experiences.


People also ask me if the solar eclipse will have an impact on animals and insects. National Geographic pointed out that the total darkness in the middle of the day is confusing to animals, both cognitively and biologically, so unusual behaviors have been observed. For example, frogs who are active at night might begin croaking, mammals like opossums might think it is time to wake up, and bees might return to their hive. If you observe strange animal behavior during the total solar eclipse, you might be interested in NASA’s Eclipse Soundscapes Project – where they are asking the public to help them record animal phenomenon during the total solar eclipse.


How to safely observe the eclipse

First, do not look at the eclipse without certified solar glasses. Even though the sun will appear less bright, it is still bright enough to cause serious damage to your eyes. Be sure to use certified solar glasses if you want to observe the eclipse. If you don’t have a pair handy, you can check out NBC5 Chicago’s tips on how to make a cardboard viewer.


Final Thoughts

I love viewing natural wonders, such as sunsets, gentle waves of the ocean, and shooting stars. An eclipse is awesome because it leads us to wonder about large things - both physically and emotionally. In viewing this eclipse, I encourage you to be in the moment. After your observation, take an existential pause and think about the meaning of life. I realize this is a huge “ask,” but as a counselor, I believe that thinking about what brings us happiness and meaning can help us rejuvenate and gain a new sense of energy (some people also check out astrology to see how eclipse season impacts people). As the moon covers the light of the sun in what seems to be an impossible darkness, with time, the light shines again. Whether you are in a period of immense joy or life confusion, nature shows us that the light will shine, sometimes we just need time for things to pass (and the assistance of a counselor).


Take a look at these websites to learn more about the eclipse:








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