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Total eclipse: Write a mythTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Dog Eats Sun by Neil Pitts
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Photo by Juan Carlos Casado
Total Solar Eclipse
Courtesy Photo­Image
Graham Jones

 The sun and the moon travel across the sky on a series of tracks, which are as fixed as the tracks running through Bailey Yard.

Very, very occasionally, the tracks of the sun and the moon bring them to exactly the same place at exactly the same time.

This is what will happen in North Platte at 12:54 p.m. on Aug. 21. The sky will go dark, the temperature will drop, and lots of exciting things will happen.

Of course, we know the sun and moon rise in the east and set in the west, then do it all over again the next day.

The sun keeps roughly the same schedule -- up in the morning and down in the evening.

The moon, on the other hand, is always changing: every day it rises and sets about 50 minutes later than the day before.

This means that, on some days, the moon rises and sets at about the same time as the sun. We call this a new moon. During this phase, the moon is up there, traveling along close to the sun, but we can't see it in the daylight.

But when the moon is opposite the sun, it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. We see a full moon.

As long as there are no clouds, it's visible all night, as it follows its track from east to west.

Of course, we know the eclipse is going to happen. But what if we didn't know? How would we feel if, one day, the sun rose as always, traveled halfway along its track across the sky, and then disappeared?

Throughout history, all over the world, people have reacted to these hair-raising experiences in a very human way. 

They made up stories to explain it.

In China, it has been said a heavenly dog tried to eat the sun, but was chased away by a god shooting arrows at him. In India, a demon with a head but no body was said to swallow the sun; but because the demon had no body, the sun reappeared when it fell out through the bottom of the demon’s head.

Many South American tribes said eclipses were caused by a giant bird attacking the sun. In North America, the Nuxalk People from around Bella Coola in Canada thought eclipses happen when the sun (rather carelessly) drops his torch.

Today we know much more, and we don't have to run around being terrified. Still, “darkness at the break of noon” is said to stir up strong emotions of wonder and amazement.

But storytellers no longer have the chance to invent tales to try to make sense of what's going on.

Until now.

The North Platte Bulletin and I are running a competition for children called Science + Stories. We are challenging you to write your own version of an eclipse myth in 20-150 words.

You can create any story you like to explain why solar eclipses occur. As with the sun-eating dog from China, we're looking for imagination, not scientific accuracy. The winners will be the stories that shows the greatest originality and creativity.

The winning authors will receive a copy of the National Geographic Space Encyclopedia.

Our Science + Stories competition is open to anyone age 16 or under living in west central Nebraska. Four prizes will be awarded.

The winner will be chosen by North Platte Bulletin Editor George Lauby and Graham Jones (that's me - I'm an astrophysicist who organizes eclipse events around the world. See my website: https://tensentences.com/.)

The deadline is July 31.

E-mail your eclipse story (and remember, it must be no more than 150 words, but it can be just a sentence or two) to george@northplattebulletin.com. Please include your name, date of birth and postal address.

If you prefer to use traditional mail, the address is 1300 E. Fourth, Ste F, North Platte, NE 69101.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 7/9/2017
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