Today people throughout the United States are traveling and staring at the sky (with proper eye protection, of course) to see either a total or partial solar eclipse. It is one of the most impressive naturally occurring sights known to man, but it didn't have to be that way...
There are countless variables and constants within physics, biology, and astronomy that, were they just a hair different, would make life on earth impossible. The laws of gravity, the improbable development of DNA, and the Earth's distance from the Sun, among other things, seem so perfectly fine-tuned that many people have looked at them as proof for the existence of God. While we can certainly be grateful for the seemingly perfect starting point that God has given us and marvel at the beauty of our intricate universe, it isn't exactly an iron-clad argument--of course the conditions are perfect for the existence of life, if they weren't, there wouldn't be anyone here to notice that they were off!
The presence of solar eclipses strikes me as a little bit different, though. There is really no reason why we should even be able to see them, nothing about the variables involved are necessary for the existence of life and it is most likely that there are relatively few places in the universe where something like our total solar eclipse is even possible and few time periods in our planet's history when it would be an impressive sight.
Consider these facts:
- The Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun--now, our Sun is pretty average-sized for a star at this stage in its sequence and our Moon is a little larger than would be expected for a planet our size, nothing Earth-shattering there.
- The Sun is about 400 times further away from the Earth than the Moon is--again, we are the right distance from the Sun for a planet to be habitable and our moon is a normal distance from us, so this in itself isn't strange.
- The Moon's orbit around the Earth isn't constant, it wobbles a little and moves a few centimeters away from us every year--a minuscule amount for the distances we are talking about.
None of these are terribly interesting on their own, but when viewed together they are pretty impressive. The relationship between the Moon and Sun's sizes and distances from the earth match up almost perfectly...why? There is no real reason for that to be the case, and yet it is! The size of both and their distances from each other are perfectly calibrated to allow us to see total solar eclipses, undoubtedly a rare sight in the universe. What's even more, it hasn't always been that way and won't be that way forever. Since the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth that means that millions of years ago the Moon would have completely blocked out the Sun, leaving nothing but darkness, and a few million years from now the Moon will be too small in the sky to block the Sun. We happened to come along during the brief window in which solar eclipses occur on our planet. We, Earth's first and only sentient life form, live in a place and during a time in which a solar eclipse is possible.
Of course, this isn't an iron-clad proof of the existence of God, either, but for the believer it sure seems providential. It makes you stop and think about the beauty of our universe and the intricate details that are necessary for us not only to exist, but to see such incredible things. Thank God for our magnificent cosmos and for putting us in a time and a place to see His wonders all around us!