The New Moon’s View of the Sun in a Total Solar Eclipse

By Amy Martin

Hi, it’s me, the New Moon. Can’t you tell? Pale, round face, looney. I tell ya, it’s not fair. The Full Moon gets all the attention. She is like the buxom blonde of satellites. No one pays attention to me, the New Moon. No one writes songs about me. I don’t make moonlight for long romantic walks. I’m just the black dot on the calendar. It’s like I’m invisible.

Oh, wait, I am invisible. As a New Moon, I’m conjunct with the Sun, right there in front of it. My back is to the Sun, so no light can reach my face. I’m dark. I rise and set with the Sun. I can not get away from him, the old blowhard. Light, light, light, king of the sky, source of all, blah blah blah.

As a New Moon, I don’t feel seen. But there is one time when I am seen: a total solar eclipse. I’m so excited. Too-mor-ohhhh. In the eclipse, that black spot where the Sun should be. That’s me! Look closely. You can see my craters, my mares, the streaks from where asteroids slammed into me, instead of you on Earth.

All my beautiful life experience, millions of years of it. I’ve got no atmosphere, no wind, no water, so nothing changes. It’s all there. But at the eclipse, my beautiful lunar face is in shades of black. There is so much richness and depth in darkness.

I gotta brag here. Little old me, just a bit over a thousand miles across. The Sun is nearly 900,000 miles across. It’s 400 times my size! But I am 400 times closer to the Earth. Kind of an odd symmetry there, but that’s what makes it work.

And just to make it even more weird and complicated, my orbit around the Earth is oval. If I’m at the far end when I reach the Sun at eclipse time, I don’t quite cover the big old gas bag. That makes it an annular eclipse where the solar corona shows and he is, after all, a showoff. But if I’m near the close-in point in my oval orbit, I fit just right and it’s total solar eclipse time, baby.

All these orbits — Sun, Earth, and me — have to line up just perfect on the same level, which is a feat because we’re all off our rockers, orbit wise. Mine is inclined 5 degrees to the Earth’s, for instance, and the Earth is inclined to the Sun’s orbit. It’s all so cattywampus. And it has to happen at just the right point in our orbits. But every 18 months or so, somewhere on the world, it all lines up and I manifest a total solar eclipse.

I slip in and – bam –cover the solar face. I make my stand and when I’m ready to go, I will. Because I can only stand him for so long, just a few minutes. Seriously, he is hot, but not in a good way. Just hot, like 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit hot on his surface. And that corona? Even hotter, 1 to 3 million degrees. Sheesh! You try being near it. And oh lordy, the Sun’s interior: 27,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Every time I do the New Moon conjunct the Sun thing, it’s a trial by fire.

Blotting out all that light and heat, well, that’s some dang female superpower there. Heck yeah! New Moons rock the world! It just goes to show, non-violent resistance is the way togo. Take that Sun, you bellicose hydrogen sphere. I can make all your light go away and turn down your heat, just by being me, the New Moon, the one nobody thinks about.

And what’s the reason I can cover the big guy up? Because I’m large. Let’s be honest. As moons go, I’m immense. I’m one-quarter the size of Earth. No other moon in the solar system is that big compared to its planet. And you know what? Other planets with poor little moons, their orbits are erratic, their axis wobble a lot, their axial speed changes. Utter environmental havoc ensues. But me, I keep things stable on Earth, allowing you humans to evolve.

At a total solar eclipse, my day in the Sun, ar ar ar, I do more than turn off the light and heat. I cast a mighty shadow. The umbra, the dark center of my shadow, is over a hundred miles wide. Look for me in the southwest a few minutes before totality. My shadow looks like the biggest storm you’ve ever seen. Except it’s low, hugging the horizon. It’s like the four horsemen of the apocalypse are raising an immense cloud of dark dust and coming right at you at over 1300 mph.

Almost as soon as you see it, my shadow is on you, enveloping you in its dark, taking you right back to the womb. All you can do is submit and lay your ego down. Release everything. No grasping, no attachment. Instead, trust in life from your deepest being. Let my darkness rinse you clear.

At totality, look overhead and marvel at me, a dark spot where the Sun should be, a portal to the infinite unknown, the embodiment of wu wei — pure potential. As the New Moon, I’m in your face at an eclipse to remind you that most of the cosmos consists of dark matter, that we arise from the darkness of the womb and to the universal darkness we return.

There is comfort and restoration in darkness, acceptance and peace. The way it can blur boundaries, remove division, dissolve, transmute. Light can’t do that. At the eclipse, I am a point of time suspended between worlds. Into that you can enter and see forever.

At totality, weep if you need too, laugh as well, from deep in your belly. Go ahead and scream. Let it go. Allow what’s within you to come out. And please, for me, your New Moon, when you’re screaming Oh My God, because you will, please throw in some Oh My Goddess as well.

Moon’s shadow hitting Earth.

I promise you, it will be the shortest four minutes of your life. In that brief span, you get to experience what it is to be human caught in a cosmic matrix, to know awe as no other creature can. The rising ecstasy, the radiant wonder, the utter astonishment of being part of circles inside circles inside a gigantic spiral in the sky. Even if it’s cloudy, you can feel all of that.

Come along with me and through the slow-motion twilight leading up to totality as I remove a little more and a little more of the Sun’s light. Don your eclipse glasses and watch me devour the solar face, as your media types exclaim.

During the eclipse, the Sun goes through phases like I do, from full to half to crescent to new at totality, but does it over an hour or so, instead of 28 days like me. He overdoes everything. But only watch the solar face for a few minutes at a time, because you don’t want to miss the real show happening down on Earth. After all, what’s precious is not obvious. The life-changing stuff, that sneaks up on you. As Mary Oliver says, pay attention.

Yeah, me overpowering the Sun is real showy, but my presence absolutely changes that old blowhard’s light falling on the Earth and that makes the weather and wildlife change. You can see videos of me clobbering the Sun’s light later. But you can only experience that at the moment it happens. I wrote up a little piece on GreenSourceDFW to help you.

As the total solar eclipse progresses, the light will take on a slight sheen, like it’s polarized. Shadows will get weird, even little crescent ones, mimicking what’s happening on the Sun. Winds start to stir as the heat goes away and cool moves in as a myriad of confused little breezes.

Feel how I dissolve the world around you, everything that you thought was sure. The horizon, where here becomes there, where the Earth meets the infinite, where the future happens, it will waver like a sunset that’s in motion, rippling in shades of orange, red, and purple, but just along the horizon.

But don’t forget to look up at all the sky. Me, the Sun, and all the planets and their little friends, we knockabout on the ecliptic. That’s a narrow band through space where we all travel. It looks tilted because the Earth is tilted; the ecliptic is actually fairly level.

At totality, the planets will pop out. If you’re looking at me, the New Moon that’s making all this happen, Venus and the much dimmer Saturn, and Mars, are to the lower right of me. Mercury, itty bitty Mercury, is just above me. Jupiter is to the upper left. If you’ve got binoculars, you might see Comet Pons-Brook next to Jupiter. These are your neighbors. Y’all gotta start thinking bigger. Only Earth has this astounding spectacle. Beings would come in from Venus and Mars, maybe even Jupiter and Saturn, to experience this, if you’d just advertise. You could get some serious astrotourism business.

And then it’s over, the fastest four minutes of your life, heck, of my life. I start to move on, because moving on is what us celestial bodies do. The first light that returns is super bright, like platinum on fire. It squeezes though some of the canyons on my surface, because let’s face it I’m old and craggy. That’s your signal that it’s eclipse glasses time again.

And then the whole thing plays in reverse. Don’t run away like the show’s over. It’s not. The light, the shadows, the weather, all that stuff still happens, but backward. Let the swelling radiance lift you with the energy of releasing joy. Don’t get in your car and go into the maw of horrible traffic. Ease back into reality. You just went to infinity and beyond. Trust me on this one. Take it slow. For many of you, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

But I as your New Moon will be back, every 28 days, that black dot on your calendar, as regular as the tides. Because as showy as that blonde bombshell Full Moon is, I still yank the tides around just as much as she. We both create high tides because we line up with the Sun and Earth. At New I’m conjunct with the Sun. The Full Moon, she’s opposite.

Putting us three orbs in a row — Sun, Moon, Earth — creates an immense gravitational pull. That pull is so powerful that it makes more than ocean tides. It yanks on the mantle of the Earth as and makes the planet bulge. Imagine! Earth tides! Go down into a deep mine at New or Full Moon and you can hear the Earth’s mighty groan. Yeah, we rock. Literally.

My tides do more than chase you off the beach. Marine creatures hitch rides on our tides. They stir the seas, mix everything up. My tides keep the currents moving. That’s important. Most of this planet is ocean and without the Moon it would be inert.

Y’all may not know that life on Earth owes its existence to me! Well, to the lunar tides. Seriously! The Earth started out rather soupy, a lot of hot sloshy stuff glommed onto a rocky metallic core. Proto continents were pushing up through a primordial genesis sea. I watched all this. The waters of the Earth were still and dark and deep. Well, not water, exactly, but close.

Earthrise from the lunar surface. NASA.

I was zooming around the Earth, far faster than today, and we were both spinning on our axis like mad like we were at a cosmic disco. Ah, youth. It was a wild time. The Earth was turning itself inside out with mega volcanic activity, wobbling on its axis like a lopsided top. The weather was apocalyptic. Nobody got any sleep.

Then millions of years ago synchrony happened. The Earth’s gravitational field was tugging on me, and I was tugging right back. We were getting to know each other. After millions of years, I slowed down my mad dashing orbit, and the Earth calmed its dizzy spinning. Because two bodies in motion close to each other tend to sync up.

Eventually, we became locked in the celestial embrace of synchrony. Now for every orbit around the Earth, I spin on my axis just one time. That’s how I keep the same side of me facing you. Check this out. This is you and this is me. See how I rotate once real slow. If I didn’t spin on my axis, you’d see all of me. I try to keep my far side private. A girl’s gotta have some mystery.

But that synchrony creates the tides which rocked the silent deep waters, stirring the molecules into combinations. Voila! Multi-celled organisms arose. As the tides lapped at the proto continents’ shores, tidal pools were created, an in between area neither salty nor sweet. Sunlight warmed the pools, fostering more lifeforms. Eventually some of them wriggled onto land. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals arose, and eventually, you humans.

I bet you didn’t think I spun. Of course I do. Everything in the universe spins. That’s how we celestial bodies came into being. That’s how we propel along in our orbits. And what direction do I spin? Counter-clockwise. Same direction that I orbit. Same that most of the Sun’s planets and satellites do. Because that’s the solar system’s original spin. Get it, get it?

The planets and satellites like me spun ourselves into existence around the Sun. And that primeval spin continues still. Get out on the dance floor or the gym and spin. Be a part of it. Or immerse yourself in sufi dancers. They always spin counterclockwise, recreating existence over and again.

So think of me, your New Moon, when I come around every 28 days. I’m new for three days, like I’m New today. Take a walk with me during the day, in the bright sunlight because that’s where I’ll be. Feel me even if you can’t see me. I am the dark place of birth. I’ll lift you up, help you start anew.