TIME

The deeper meaning of the Great American Eclipse

A composite image of the 2008 eclipse over the Marshall Islands reveals the sun’s halo-like corona during totality

DESPITE ALL THE HYPE, THE MOON has nothing special planned for Aug. 21. It will continue doing what it’s done for more than 4 billion years—insensibly circling Earth, a dead rock at the end of a long gravitational tether.

The sun has nothing special planned either. It will sit where it must sit and burn as it must burn to sustain the flock of planets and moons and asteroids and comets that have orbited it for so long.

That’s how things go in the clockwork cosmos, and yet once in a while, there’s poetry in the machinery. Once in a while, the wheels click in synchrony and

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