Cyberspace is abuzz with excitement because we are about to experience that most occult phenomenon of astronomical proportions; a solar eclipse (excuse the pun but it was just too tempting). On November 14 at about 8:00 in the A of the M (GMT+10) the moon will pass in front of the solar disk and the world, or a part of it near Cairns at any rate, will be cast into an eerie darkness. Because I live well south of the tropics in Melbourne I will only be exposed to a partial darkening of the heavens.
I discovered the imminence of this portentous event like I find out many things now, on Facebook. Once Obama was re-elected as President of the World social media went back to the standard fare of pictures of people’s cats wearing party hats and seriously pissed off expressions with corny yet almost meaningful captions and conspiracy theorists beating their end of the world drum. Of course no one interest group on social media has ownership of so universal on occurrence and the scientific geeky types had posted all sorts of interesting stuff about how fucking great a total eclipse is, with dramatic pictures to give their less cerebrally endowed Facebook friends the idea.
And no total eclipse is complete without the input of the new agers, astrologers and students of the dark arts. Among this niche opinion was divided as to whether the impending occultation of the Solar orb was to be beneficial or a source of infinite misery and a sign of our impending doom (a chorus of conspiracy theorists chimed in that they had told us the end was nigh a long time ago).
So of course I did the only sensible thing possible in the circumstances and contacted my astrologer. This sage woman promised to examine my chart and assured me that I would have my answer before the crisis hit. Reassured that the situation was under control I began to wonder about the science of solar eclipses and so I thought, “Who would know about astronomical things?” As the whole eclipse thing seems to be about the moon, and NASA set some guys there when I was a kid, I thought that they might be a good place to start. A quick Google query and I was looking at the World Atlas of Solar Eclipse Paths which lists every solar eclipse for the past 4,000 years. Apparently they happen pretty regularly. Who’d a thunk it?
Actually, closer examination of the data indicated that they happened at least a couple of times a year somewhere in the world. They actually follow a very interesting and complicated cycle that was first worked out by Edmond Halley in 1691 called a saros. A saros cycle is a bit over 18 years long and in that time the shadow of the eclipse gradually travels from one pole of the earth to the other causing between 2 and 5 solar eclipses somewhere on earth every year. Science is bloody amazing. And often reassuring. After all; if there are so many solar eclipses every year, no matter how fucked up the world is you can’t really blame it on a common astronomical occurrence, can you.
My astrologer messaged me to let me know that she had done all of the necessary calculations and I would know the facts ASAP. I heaved a sigh of relief and emboldened by this cheery news I took a look around at what the conspiracy theorists were saying. Perhaps one of them had hit on something that made sense (a vain hope- I know).
This quarter of cyberspace, usually so active with covert communications about illuminati, genetically modified breakfast cereals and alien abductions, was strangely silent. Perhaps they are busy counting down to 21st December and in the face of the rapidly approaching Armageddon they have been too preoccupied with stocking the fall-out shelter to have the spare time to warn us all about the malevolent influence of the lunar transit. Six weeks isn’t long and they must be under the pump.
Remaining unconvinced; I check my e-mail again (I had a peek at Facebook too, just in case there was some breaking news). Ah! The message that I was waiting for. What influences had the accident of my birth exposed me to? The latest buzz had identified Scorpio as the allotted place in the firmament of constellations where this ominous event would actually occur. Scorpio! Of all places! But, was that good, or bad? The e-mail held all the answers.
The short message assured me that all was well with DG. In fact the eclipse is sextile with Mercury in my nativity which assured me of a magickally studious and professionally prosperous time ahead (I may even take up gambling again). This golden period in my ever lengthening stay in this world would last for the next six months, in which time I would be smarter, my computer won’t crash and the words of wisdom will flow from my keyboard in eloquent, perfectly spelled waves of excellent grammar.
I took two things away from this. 1- I like my astrologer’s take on the celestial influences, it feels good to know that I have the momentum of the whole solar system working for me. 2- if her prognostications are correct the world can’t be ending on 21st December because my streak on easy street is going to last until next May. The Mayans will just have to recalculate their calendar.