What Are the Odds?
In any solar/planetary system, what are the odds of both a star and a planetary satellite
(i.e.: our sun and moon)
being the same apparent size as the other when viewed from that satellite’s planet
so that Total Solar Eclipses are possible?
Further, what are the odds that this planet would actually be inhabited
by beings aware enough to appreciate such a phenomenon?
Finally, what are the odds of these two circumstances being duplicated
in any other solar/planetary system
in the Galaxy… or even The Universe?
By Michael-Leonard Creditor
A long-ago traveling companion taught me that you couldn’t truly know a route until you’ve traveled it in both directions. I’ve experienced the truth of this many times in ways both large and small. It was demonstrated again on this journey. Having seen and noted the geology and topography on the trip north, I was now more ready to really observe the differences and changes I’d see on the way back.
It wasn’t long after Totality ended that vehicles began exiting the campground. The reason, we reasoned, was that some folks had long drives home ahead of them to get to work on Tuesday. We had the luxury of being able to take our time, and the need to stop again in Casper for fuel, before heading out on our return journey.
As we navigated the unfamiliar streets, we happened to pass close to the downtown streets that had been closed and turned into a pedestrian-only eclipse-viewing mall, complete with tables and booths set up by vendors both big and small. There were still hundreds of folks milling around and having a good time.
After impulse-buying a couple of overpriced novelty T-shirts (I Got MOONED in Casper, Wyoming) we pointed the Sprinter south and headed out of town. However, we weren’t at all prepared for the traffic jam we encountered a few miles down the road.
There wasn’t much eclipse-bound traffic on the way up, so I didn’t think about it. But, yes, there were plenty of people who had driven to be in the Path … and apparently, plenty of them now were heading the same way we were.
The drive between Casper and Rawlins, which had been about 90 minutes on Sunday, stretched to twice that on Monday afternoon. After all that time stuck in traffic, we both just wanted to get on the freeway and go. And so we did, rolling all the way to the tourist-directed settlement of Little America, where we camped that night.
I had stopped in Little America once long ago on a coast-to-coast road trip. The self-service diner we saw that morning wasn’t anything like that luncheonette counter of long past. But they made a decent breakfast and, of course, we had to get something from the gift shop.
Still, we were back on the highway by mid-morning. Soon after we hit the road, Arline asked if we would be able to make it to Las Vegas that night instead of taking another day. It was only about 550 miles, an easy one-day drive; so we did. We just stayed on the Interstate and stopped only for gas — and a blizzard at a DQ.
West of Little America, that rolling prairie became markedly hillier; the outcroppings within that theme more angular and mountain-like until, approaching the Utah state line, we climbed to scale the summit (6,850 feet). But, the basic theme of the topography is flat, not the angular mountainous direction I’d expected.
In Wyoming, the snow fences are wooden; the uprights made of large lumber, the long horizontal rows of regular ol’ 2-by-4. In Utah, snow barriers are totally metal. The change was as sudden as the state line.
Too many streets in Utah are numbered instead of named. And it’s not even streets go east-west, avenues go north-south; that would be too normal. No, the numbers just get bigger. Like 8800 Street, South in Salt Lake City. Or an intersection that I photographed in Provo: 1330th Street West and 600th Street South. I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. Maybe it’s a Mormon thing, I don’t know; I just found it a strange way to identify streets.
The entire journey was punctuated by NPR stations everywhere. They seemed to follow us throughout the entire trip. Beginning on the drive north between St. George and Enoch, Utah when I heard Irish music that turned out to be Fiona Ritchie still doing a version of her old Thistle and Shamrock show. God bless her. And culminating with a confluence of the same NPR program on four, yes four, different frequencies.
On the trip back, just south of the town of Parowan, Utah, the same NPR program came in FM on 88.5, 89.3, 89.5, and 90.1. I looked them up later and, best as I could figure, the stations are:
- The only NPR station on that frequency is KQED from San Fran; could we have been receiving that?
- KPCC in Pasadena;
- From nearby St. George, KUSR.
- Finally, 90.1 is KUER from the University of Utah with repeaters all over the state.
I don’t know where they all came from, I just know there was an NPR convergence there, just for a minute or so, because we were moving at 65 m.p.h.
There’s one last bit of scenery I’d like to mention. Between Utah and Nevada, the I-15 goes through a corner of Arizona. It’s only 25 miles, just a blip in a 1,600-mile road trip, but the roadway traverses the Virgin River gorge.
Now, I don’t know why I didn’t remember going through it on the northern part of the trip, but I didn’t. It was about the same time of day both times, so that wouldn’t account for it. Perhaps it was the difference of coming down hill through it rather than going uphill. Whatever the reason, I was absolutely stunned by the beauty of the rock formations lining the gorge. Shades of reds alternated with grays in the strata on display. The angles of the formations combined with the pitch of the roadway added to the unreality of the landscape.
As I mentioned, we arrived back at our friends’ hacienda in time to take them out for dinner.
* * * * * * * * * * *
I’ve now seen three Total Solar Eclipses (TSE). Will I see more? Yes. How far will I go to view more? Don’t know.
What I’ve learned is that, just like every time you go out to dinner is different, every solar eclipse is different. The next one to occur in the US will be April 8, 2024; I will most certainly be in the shadow somewhere.
But, there are three TSEs in other parts of the world before then. So, if any of you reading this are interested in a trip to see something that might be a miracle, just let me know. We’ll find out the answer to that question.
About the author:
• Born in Tucson, Ariz., reared in Brooklyn, N.Y., lived in Portland, Ore., currently resides in Clairemont.
• Three main professions: photographer, folklorist, radio program host.
• Philosopher, and life-long Liberal.