Let's get astrophysical!
“See the reflection of light?” I inquired, beginning my presentation. “Now imagine it is the sun.”
My aunt, Toogie, had asked about the impending solar eclipse and I offered to give a demonstration as she and my lovely wife Grace gathered in the kitchen late one afternoon. I pulled the blinds to dim the room and shined a flashlight at the refrigerator, producing a circle of light on the shiny metal door.
“That circle of light is the sun,” I restated.
“Why wouldn’t the flashlight be the sun?” Grace asked.
“No, the image on the fridge is the sun,” I explained one more time. “We are where the flashlight is.”
“I’m just saying that the flashlight looks more like the sun than the fridge does,” Grace replied.
“Grace is right,” Toogie declared. “The flashlight should definitely be the sun.”
I exhaled slowly, sensing we were off to a bad start.
“Okay, have it your way,” I conceded, recalibrating my presentation. “We will make the flashlight the sun and we are on the fridge.”
“We don’t mind being on the refrigerator dear,” Grace offered, trying to be helpful.
“Dalton looks like he hasn’t strayed too far from the fridge,” Toogie chuckled.
Ignoring her comment I began anew, holding the flashlight in my right hand at shoulder height.
“So, we now have this flashlight representing the sun.”
“Better,” Grace smiled.
I continued. “Even though that circle of light on the refrigerator door looks a lot like the sun to me, it will, for our purposes, represent light shining down on us from the sun.”
“Which is the flashlight,” Grace added, reinforcing what was now obvious.
I looked at Toogie to ascertain that she was following the lesson so far. When she realized I was seeking a response, she muttered, “Whatever.”
“Now,” I proffered, holding an apple in my left hand. “This apple represents the moon.”
“Excuse me,” Grace interjected. “That apple isn’t completely round like the moon.” She looked toward Toogie for support that was as sure to come as sunset.
“Yeah,” Toogie chortled. “Your apple is sort of lumpy. I think a grape would be a good moon.”
“Too small!” I shot back.
“But the moon is small in comparison to the earth,” Grace observed pointing correctly at the refrigerator. When I failed to respond, she offered, “How about an orange, Dear? An orange is round and looks like a full harvest moon.”
“Oh,” Toogie sighed, “Harold proposed to me under a full moon in October; 19…”
“Okay! Okay,” I hollered. “We’ll use an orange!”
“…47.” Toogie blurted.
“Dalton!” Grace spoke up. “Toogie and I are just trying to help you with your little science project.”
I put the apple back into the fruit bowl and retrieved an orange. After a deep breath, I said, “This orange is our moon.”
“Pretty big for a moon,” Toogie huffed, to which I did not respond.
“I agree,” Grace replied softly as she patted Toogie’s hand. “Let’s allow him to finish so we won’t have to hold dinner.”
“Now,” I continued, “as we know, the moon circles the earth.” To emphasize this fact, I rotated the orange in a circular motion.”
“Wait a minute,” Grace interrupted. “That’s the moon in your left hand?”
I nodded and Grace continued, “And the flashlight in your right hand is the sun?”
When I nodded again, Grace concluded, “Pardon me for saying so, but it looks like you have the moon circling next to the sun.”
“Yeah, Copernicus,” Toogie piped up. “The orange needs to circle around the refrigerator.”
“In real life it does!” I sputtered.
Sensing my exasperation, Grace offered, “Would it help then if we held the orange since we are closer to the refrigerator?”
“No,” I sighed. “I need the moon, I mean the orange, so that I can have it block out the light from the flashlight, or sun, when the moon—the orange—passes between the sun—the flashlight—and the refrigerator—which is the earth.”
Toogie leaned toward Grace and remarked in a stage whisper, “I don’t think he’s going to get a very good grade on this science project.”
Undaunted, I proceeded. “Watch what happens to that reflection on the fridge.”
As I slowly moved the orange in front of the flashlight, the circle of light on the refrigerator slowly disappeared until it was fully blotted out.
“Voila!” I declared, triumphantly. “That, folks, is a total eclipse of the sun!”
“Total eclipse of the sun,” Toogie mused slowly. “Aren’t those lyrics from some song?”
“You’re So Vain,” Grace piped up. “By Carly Simon. Some people think she was describing Warren Beatty.”
“I thought it was David Bowie,” Toogie replied.
“Ladies, please!” I interrupted. “We are talking about a major astrological event here.”
“He means astronomical,” Grace whispered.
“We’ll experience some really cool, amazing things,” I declared. “For example, we will see a 360 degree sunset.”
When they did not respond, I pointed toward the kitchen baseboards. “In every direction. North, South, East, West. Sunset all around.”
“It would have helped if you had baseboard lighting,” Toogie offered.
Grace covered her mouth to hide a chuckle.
“When the sun is fully covered,” I explained, “we will see stars like we do at night.”
“Point your flashlight at the ceiling,” Grace suggested.
Dutifully, I did and Toogie quipped, “Looks a lot like the sun to me.”
“Wait,” Grace declared, opening a cabinet drawer. She retrieved a metal colander and held it over the flashlight producing a sky of stars on the ceiling.
Continuing the lesson, I revealed, “And when it gets dark, the temperature will drop by ten to fifteen degrees.”
“I got this one,” Toogie declared, opening the refrigerator door.
“Now for the final act,” I proclaimed. “If you will close the refrigerator door, I will display how the moon traverses its path and the sun will reappear.”
“I think we get it,” Grace injected. “Plus, it’s dinner time.” Ever mindful of my efforts, she added, “That was a wonderful astronomy presentation, Sweetheart.”
Grace and Toogie clapped politely as I turned off the flashlight and returned the orange to the fruit basket.
“How about a drink?” Grace inquired. “Maybe a Blue Moon beer with a slice of orange?” She leaned closer, smiled and cooed, “Have I told you lately that I love you more than the flashlight, the orange and the colander?”
It took a moment for the translation to sink in. I smiled back at her and reflected on the fact that I am the luckiest guy in the universe.