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Moon Shadow: Celebrating Eclipse Totality

Look up to our source of life on Earth during this rare and transformative celestial event.

The Moon eclipses the Sun – taking a bite as ancient Mayans believed – and a crescent Sun begins to form. The first contact between the Moon and Sun. As the Moon transverses the sky, it covers the Sun until only a crescent sliver remains. Spectacular phenomena display just before the Moon fully blocks the Sun at second contact. Serpentine shadows from the atmosphere’s turbulence undulate across the ground – shadow snakes. Then a huge flash of light, shimmering like a diamond, bursts from one edge of the Sun – the Diamond Effect. It disappears to reveal a ring of light beads on the Sun’s rim from the remnants of sunlight poking through the Moon’s valleys – Baily’s beads. In the full shadow of the Moon, Earth enters complete darkness.

Totality is both frightening and awe-inspiring. Believing it is nighttime, the crickets chirp and the birds nest in trees. The temperature drops, the winds change, and cumulus and stratus clouds disappear. Time stands still. Humans witnessing the mysteries of the cosmos cry out, weep, or are unmovable. All are transformed by this unworldly event. Then, moments or minutes later, the process reverses. The Moon emerges from the other side of the Sun and eclipse phenomena display again at third contact. The Sun’s crescent grows larger as the Moon recedes until full sunlight is restored at fourth contact.

On Monday, April 8th, 2024, a total solar eclipse will fill the sky over a huge swath of North America. In the Hill Country of Texas, totality will occur at 1:34:52 CT, bestowing 4 minutes and 24 seconds of total darkness – the longest totality near a major metropolitan area in North America. This rare celestial event will not happen again here until August 12, 2044 – 20 years from now. 

Moon Shadow: Celebrating Eclipse Totality will capture this spectacular event along with 40,000 eclipse chasers. 

Moon Shadow is a multi-platform educational PBS project (PBS distribution confirmed) about the science and symbolism of eclipses helmed by a woman-owned duo of award-winning documentary filmmakers and journalists. The project aims to use the universal awe and wonder of solar eclipses to engage more audiences in an understanding and appreciation of science and nature. It also recognizes that such a transformative cosmic event creates a moment of reset, inspiring introspection about our place within the universe and humanity at a critical time when Earth’s and humanity’s health are threatened.

The project is anchored by a documentary film:

A total solar eclipse – the perfect alignment of Earth, moon, and sun – has sparked contemplation, pursuit of knowledge, innovation, and transformation for as long as humans have revered this cosmic gem. Moon Shadow is a feature-length documentary that explores the science and symbolism of eclipses. It captures the visually stunning April 2024 total eclipse along ground zero in the Texas Hill Country, cradled within a one-of-a-kind festival celebrating next-generation art, science, music, space, technology, and wellness. It also introduces viewers to some of the world’s most ardent eclipse chasers and experts. 

To delve into the science, we meet NASA astrophysicists shedding light on solar geometry, the corona, and eclipse phenomena; environmentalists exploring the effects of eclipses on weather, animals, and plants; solar eclipse researchers studying the elusive corona during the precious moments of totality; psychologists documenting the psychological effects of eclipses on humans; and conservationists entreating us to steward our planet. 

To explore the cultural symbolism, we meet anthropologists placing eclipses in lore and ritual across time and cultures; indigenous leaders sharing the spiritual meaning of eclipses; historians tracing eclipses’ effects on society; educators explaining the recent boom of public engagement in eclipses and citizen science; artists creating in the moon’s shadow in search of human enlightenment; and futurists transporting us into new worlds shaped by the nexus of art and science. 

Moon Shadow celebrates the power and wonder of alignment – of three celestial bodies during the total eclipse of 2024 and of a harmonious Earth and humanity awakened by that transformative cosmic event.

Documentary highlights include:

  • NASA scientists explain solar and lunar eclipse differences, total eclipse unique phenomena and environmental effects, eclipse prediction, and key NASA-supported eclipse research (Johnson Space Center and Goddard are participating) 
  • Solar eclipse researchers work with NASA’s Johnson’s Space Center to deploy sensitive instrumentation on WB-57 jets to study the corona during the finite moments of totality to understand dynamic coronal activity and solar winds, revealing clues to the origins of the Sun
  • Psychologists document the six stages of emotion people experience when witnessing an eclipse – from a “sense of wrongness” to a “desire to repeat”  
  • Anthropologists trace the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese, Mayans, Persians, Renaissance Italians, and Native Americans’ understanding and celebration of eclipses
  • A Tibetan lama, a Mayan spiritual leader, and a Native American tribal leader explain their culture’s belief systems, spiritual connectedness with eclipses, and eclipse rituals  
  • Historians trace the importance of the 1919 eclipse to our understanding of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and other key eclipse-inspired societal events 
  • Science education leaders highlight their Soundscape and Megamovie science citizen science projects, the importance of science in our daily lives, and the burgeoning eclipse-tourism industry 
  • Eclipse chasers, families, astronauts, artists, musicians, and futurists reflect on the awe and wonder of eclipses and how they fulfill a universal human need

 Moon Shadow is also designed to reach various audiences with other media elements:  

  • Companion website with information on the film and project, eclipse science, eclipse culture, video profiles, and impact campaign partners and calls-to-action 
  • Digital series with a deeper dive into specific eclipse science and its place in history and society for YouTube (PBS Digital Studios)
  • Educational lesson plans based on documentary clips about the math, science, and cultural context (social studies) of eclipses for K-12 students for PBS LearningMedia (#1 source of video-based curricula in the U.S.) 
  • Social impact initiative with key partners focused on stewardship of the Earth (climate, sustainability, outdoors, dark skies) and humanity (tolerance, altruism, compassion). 

Moon Shadow is a unique project that deeply connects today’s audiences to the science and symbolism of total eclipses. It recognizes that eclipses have provoked contemplation about and celebration of what it means to be human. It explores the multi-layered science of eclipses. It examines the cultural and historical context of the symbolism of eclipses. It uncovers the universality of the quest for knowledge and human expression. It delves into the convergence of art and science. It provokes questions about our responsibility to the planet and humanity. It creates a sense of shared community. It affirms the power of alignment.

Trailer Credit: 2024 Total Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA (Official Trailer)

Associated Members

Anne Zeiser, Independent Filmmaker

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Natasha Davison, Producer

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We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation