Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Three Minutes, 38 Seconds: How will you spend your unique moment during Monday's eclipse?

The bright "diamond ring" of the sun's edge emerges behind the dark disc of the moon at the end of the 2017 total eclipse
Scott Fybush
The "diamond ring" effect of the sun's emergence, as seen from Marion, Kentucky during the 2017 total solar eclipse

In downtown Rochester, the total eclipse April 8 will last exactly three minutes and 38 seconds - exactly the same length as the audio accompanying this story, with some ideas for what you might be thinking during those moments on Monday.

You've been waiting. Maybe just for a few months. Maybe since the last total eclipse in the US seven years ago. Maybe your whole life.

It's time now. As the last bits of full sun disappear behind the moon, take off your glasses. You've got three minutes and twenty seconds now to enjoy this experience unfiltered.

Release your emotions. You'll have plenty. You'll hear screams and cries in those first moments, and some of them will be coming right from you.

Your first instinct will be to look up. Do you think you're ready for what you’ll see? How can anyone be? The spot where the sun was is still there in the sky, but it's a black void against twilight. The sun's corona has been there all along, but you’ve probably never seen it before. Watch it glow from all around the void of the moon. You've seen the colors of the sunset before, but not like this. Look around - they are all around you.

The stars are out, at three in the afternoon. Imagine for a moment how that felt to your ancestors before they understood the mechanics of an eclipse. How it might have felt to have this all come as a surprise. To not know when or if the sun would return. You know better now. You have about two minutes and 20 seconds left in this time out of time.

This should all be impossible. To be able to calculate the exact path of a shadow, hundreds of years ahead of time. To have that perfect shadow even exist at all. A sun that's 400 times the size of the moon, exactly 400 times more distant, a precise fit over precisely the one form of intelligent life able to be fully in awe of the coincidence. Or, if you prefer, the miracle.

But wait. Don't just look up. You're running out of time to soak in the show that's happening all around you. Nothing is normal, not for the next minute and a half. The birds are making confused sounds, and can you blame them? The air has cooled. Colors look different. Are those chills up and down your arms? You’re certainly not the only one right now.

Are you with your family? Friends? If you have to pull out your phone, use it to capture their reactions. Or take one last deep breath, put all the deep thoughts aside, and just immerse yourself in what's left of the moment. Just over seventy seconds.

You will never have this exact experience again. None of us will. When the shadow returns to this spot, it will be in a hundred and twenty years. As it races away now, it leaves no physical imprint. But are these three minutes and change, changing you?

Is your mind racing with the thought of centuries, of the generations that may never get to know the gift the universe has just given you? Of those who stood here a century ago during the shadow’s last crossing, imagining this moment in an unimaginably distant year of 2024? You’re one with all of them now - and with the millions cheering on these last moments of shadow. Just a few heartbeats left… 25 seconds.

Have your glasses ready. It's almost over now. If you're especially fortunate, you might see Bailly’s beads and the diamond ring effect as the sun bursts past the moon’s rough edges. It's a spectacular finale.

Three minutes and thirty eight seconds. Make all you can out of every moment.

You'll hear Scott in various capacities on WXXI either as a reporter, or hosting Morning Edition or All Things Considered.