This is the year to celebrate the sun. From gentle, pastel sunrise through glorious, golden sunset, it is the most important single influence on life on Earth. When our children were very young, together we wrote and sang nursery rhymes to describe scientific concepts such as “The sun is setting in the west, but it will rise up in the east, again tomorrow morning.” Simple, reassuring.
Throughout history, the sun has been a great influence on our lives. This year, for the first time in 1500 years, the US will witness a total eclipse. Since the eclipse will occur on the day after the Fair, this year’s theme is “Celebrating the Sun.” People can attend the Fair and still return home in time to witness the spectacle. Although we will not experience totality here in northern Illinois, we will have 90% totality for about two minutes, enough to realize how a natural phenomenon has impressed, terrified and influenced humans throughout history.
For those few minutes, we can appreciate early people’s fear of losing their light forever.
A simple alignment of Earth, Moon, and Sun produces a spectacular event for those of us on the Earth. As the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, it temporarily blocks the sun from view. Most eclipses are partial, with the moon blocking only part of the sun, but this one will be total for a swath across the entire US. The temperature will drop between 5 and10oF. While ancient civilizations did not understand science and feared permanent loss of the Sun, science reassures us that it will soon reappear and continue to shine for many millions of. years.
The sun’s enormous energy is the Earth’s most secure, reliable source of energy. From green plants through solar panels, the sun has provided sustenance and comfort throughout history. Light and heat are its most readily recognizable positive impacts. Negative impacts caused by the energy of the sun include power fluctuations, communication interferences, and other disturbances.
NASA reports that space exploration has provided insights into other forms of energy from the sun, including x-rays, ultraviolet light and gamma rays. This enormous stream of energy is sent to the far reaches of the galaxy with greater impact than previously imagined.
On Earth, new ways to use the sun’s free, sustainable energy are constantly becoming recognized. A growing number of people, communities and nations are building lifestyles and economies based on solar energy. Plan to attend this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair and meet people and hear ideas that will help us realize how all of us can improve the sustainability of our own lives and those of others.
The major sponsor of the Fair is the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation. We appreciate the support of The Rock River Times.