It's the big Eclipse Day, and no doubt you have some questions that no one else has answered to your satisfaction. I'll do my best.
Q: Didn't ancient cultures believe that the eclipse was a dragon eating the sun, hence they would bang pots and pans to drive the dragon away?
A: Not entirely. If the dragon was eating the sun, then the return of the sun meant it had passed through the dragon's intestinal system. Everyone was grossed out thinking about that, so there was no banging of pots. No one even went outside until after a good rain.
Q: What's the best place to watch an eclipse?
A: Scientists say "where it happens." In this case, the path of totality, a narrow band that cuts northwest, starting in South Carolina. Or, wait, is it the other way around?
(Note: It literally cuts. The eclipse is expected to leave a smoking trench one mile in diameter.)
Q: How long will it last?
A: Until the cries of the nation have been joined by the numberless cries of the birds in the trees and the beasts in the fields in a terrible song without melody or meter. Until the heavens themselves have shown stars in such number they can never be counted; until the counting itself has concluded.
In other words, under 3 minutes.
Q: Where's the worst place to see an eclipse?
A: The Lowry Hill tunnel.
But even if you were standing in a field, the technical term for what you'll see is "bupkis." Our metro area is among the list of least eclipsed areas since about 2000 B.C.
Several Minnesota cities around 4000 B.C. were close to the eclipse zone, but experienced naught but slight dimming, sorta like someone a few miles away from the grandstand at the State Fair hearing a few notes of the Beatles Reunion.
One of those unlucky cities is named Cosmos.
This is like the town of Lunchmeat watching the bologna truck drive by every 10 years with its blinker on, but never pulling over and stopping.
All the streets in Cosmos have celestial connotations — Milkyway Drive, Astro Lane, Comet Lane, and, of course SuperGalactic Cluster X834, a street so dense that the gravitational pull keeps people from backing their cars out of the garage.
Of all the places to be denied an eclipse, you wouldn't think it would be Cosmos. But, wait, maybe Cosmos is the reason the state of Minnesota doesn't get many eclipses: The sun can smell desperation.
Cosmos: What's the matter with me? I'm smart and nice! I'll treat an eclipse better than anyone else. But no, the eclipse always goes for the bad-boy towns.
Sun: You just seem needy. Maybe if you didn't try so hard. But don't worry, I'm sure there's a minor occluding event for you out there somewhere. Maybe a nice asteroid will pass overhead soon. There are plenty of rocks in the sky!
Q: Should I buy goggles online from BestEclipseGoggles.com, where all the reviews are 5-star, and say things like "to the best of looking? That! Style in the way of our days, have fun! Made to the zest of quality, are we not correct? Be you for the times."
A: No. Check for Amazon reviews from previous eclipses that read like this:
SkyVu promises but has pblms (From Bob F, verified purchase)
Pros: Stylish, lightweight. Arrived fast. Came in a drawstring cloth pouch you can use for coins or carrying around dirt from cities you have visited. Frames smelled "plasticky," although this faded over time. Fit well on my head. I've ordered lots of eclipse glasses and they're usually sized small.
Cons: AHH AHHH AHHHHHH! OH, IT BURNS! AHHH! I CAN'T SEE!
Q: So I should look through a pinhole in a piece of cardboard to make sure the image doesn't permanently scar me?
A: Nowadays, that's generally good advice about everything.