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  • Writer's pictureBernard Beitman, MD

Blotting Out the Sun: A Cosmic Coincidence

Geometry makes the moon and sun appear to be the same size.


 

Key Points

  • The total eclipse of the sun illustrates a common coincidence form — two objects surprisingly match.

  • The relative size and relative distance between the two orbs explain the coincidence geometrically.

  • The drama of the eclipse emphasizes the everyday fact that synchronicities are common.

 

A majority of synchronicities involve a psychological event mirroring an external event. As in Jung’s famous scarab story, a patient’s dream image of a scarab matched an objective event—the scarab-like beetle that Jung presented to her. Some meaningful coincidences involve matching external events so that anyone can see them. Solar eclipses exemplify these serial matches. The size of the moon matches the size of the sun for anyone to see.


Solar eclipses fascinate and amaze us for several reasons.


Astronomical Rarity


Solar eclipses are rare cosmic occurrences that remind us of the immense scale and precision of celestial movements. The alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth in such a way that the moon obscures the sun often creates a sense of wonder.


Visual Spectacle


The visual impact of a total solar eclipse can inspire both awe and fear. The sudden darkening of the sky, the appearance of the solar corona, and the dramatic change in the environment alter our stable sense of reality.


Cultural and Spiritual Significance


Throughout history, solar eclipses have held deep cultural and spiritual significance for many societies. They have been associated with myths, legends, and rituals, often serving as symbols of cosmic balance, transformation, or the influence of celestial forces on human affairs.


The Right Geometry


The ecliptical cosmic dance relies on just the right geometric choreography: The moon is four hundred times smaller than the sun, but it is also four hundred times nearer to us. 1/400 × 400/1 = 1. This ratio makes the two disks in our sky appear to be the same size. If the moon appeared larger than the sun, it could still occasionally be in front of it, but it would also blot out the dramatic prominences along the sun’s edge, those geysers of pink nuclear flame. So, for maximum amazingness, these bodies must appear to be the same size. And they do.


The Moon Is Moving Away From Earth


The moon wasn’t always where it is now, which makes the coincidence even more special. The moon has relatively recently arrived at its current “sweet spot.” It’s been traveling away from Earth ever since its creation four billion years ago, after the Earth was slammed by a Mars-size body that sent white-hot debris arcing into the sky. Spiraling away at the rate of one and a half inches per year, the moon is only now at the necessary 93 million miles from the sun, about the same distance as the Earth is from the sun, to make total solar eclipses possible. In another few hundred million years, total solar eclipses will be gone forever.


And there is another coincidence here. Life on earth has evolved so that self-aware human beings can consciously behold the moon-sun coincidence. In the narrow cosmic time window in which the eclipse is possible, we are here to see and appreciate it. Consciousness has evolved to intersect at just the right cosmic time with the moon’s gradual separation from the Earth. A coincidence about a coincidence—a meta-coincidence.


Comment


The solar eclipse highlights an everyday fact—the moon and sun appear to be the same size despite their actual huge difference in size. Meaningful coincidences are also everyday facts.(1)


To me, the solar eclipse is a call to humanity to recognize the possibilities inherent in other coincidences. One person’s synchronicity is to another person a mere coincidence. Interpretation is personal. The solar eclipse presents a rare example of a potentially meaningful coincidence taking place for millions of people to experience the same coincidence and draw their own interpretation.


 

References

  • 1. Russo-Netzer, P. & Icekson, T. (2023). An Underexplored Pathway to Well-Being: The Development and Validation of the Synchronicity Awareness and Meaning-Detecting (SAMD) Scale. Frontiers in Psychology. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1053296

  • Bob Berman. A Total Solar Eclipse Feels Really, Really Weird. Wired. August 7, 2017.

 

Photo by Jongsun Lee on Unsplash

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