Not that I know many eclipse experts, but in my book, Chuck Fulco is the rock star of the genre.
As evidence, I offer the following:
• He's 55 years old, and has been captivated by eclipses since the age of 8, when he saw a near-total one in his hometown of Port Chester, New York.
• He's witnessed scores more, but has traveled to: Mazatlán, Mexico; Salzburg, Austria; Shanghai, China; and Patagonia, Argentina to witness "totality," as we say in the eclipse-watching biz.
• Chuck is a science teacher in Massachusetts, and he secured grants from NASA and the American Astrological Society to take his classroom on the road for two years, criss-crossing the nation, talking to students and science groups about "the most awesome sight they'll ever see."
• He stopped in on Naperville North High School, not once, but twice, because he was so taken in by the enthusiasm of the school's astronomy club. His return visit turned into a community event.
• He's invented a great mantra for the message he's trying to convey to parents, teachers and school administrators. Students, he says, most certainly should experience the eclipse. "No Child Left Inside!" he proclaims.
• With his essay that appears today, Chuck becomes the rare repeat contributor to our on-going "Straight from the Source" series.
His enthusiasm for the topic is boundless, as evidenced by this passage from the essay he wrote in May, just before his stop in Naperville:
"Imagine seeing a huge dark shadow rushing at you well in excess of the speed of sound, and seeing stars suddenly appear in the daytime sky.
"But what really blows people away is the sight of the sun's corona coming into view as the last of its light is swept over by the pitch-black lunar disc. These are simply sights that you can't see anywhere else on Earth.
"I've traveled to four continents to see these things; it would be a shame if people wouldn't travel a few hours to see it for themselves."
That's not all. When I contacted him about the essay that appears today, I was trying to be sensitive to how much time he could afford to give us. So, rather than asking for a full-blown, 1,000-word narrative, I devised five categories for him to give quick-hit answers. As you can see, he chose to tackle all of them.
That's still not all. He also mentioned that because of a "manufacturer's mistake," he ended up with a boatload of those eclipse-watching glasses that now seem to be in such short supply. I put Chuck in contact with Renee Trappe, editor of our Southern Illinois newspapers. Chuck sold her the glasses at his cost, which we used for a subscription promotion. (Could that have been an oversight? I'm thinking these things could have tremendous black-market appeal.)
Come to think of it, I still don't have a pair of ISO-approved viewing glasses. Ah, I'll be busy editing eclipse stories on Monday, anyway.
In other eclipse news:
How about a shout out to Assistant Managing Editor Neil Holdway, who came up with the design -- white type on a black background in the shape of the moon eclipsing the Sun -- for Chuck's essay? Neil and Presentation Editor Tim Broderick took the time to create an image that shows the "Sun" 86 percent covered.
That, as I'm sure you know, is the estimated amount of eclipse totality here in the suburbs.