A father's view when the heavens align for the eclipse

LITCHFIELD, Neb. -- Under that wonderful, waning, mid-day sun, a 9-year-old boy was about to have the greatest experience of his little lifetime. He's a kid so into astronomy that he takes his planet book to swimming lessons, dressed up as the solar system for Halloween and made his 3rd grade New Year's resolution to get a shrewd idea of how the multiverse could be real.

"It's basically a theory about having not one, but an infinite number of universes," he says.

And he'd like to understand it better?  

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George Hartman, left, and Emmett Hartman.

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"Yeah, which I already have done."

This is George -- my son.

I asked if he would explain it to me someday.

"I will," George promises. "And me?" asks his little brother Emmett, who would much rather be discussing anything else.

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The solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.

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"It's just getting tiring for the whole life to be space," Emmett said. 

For Emmett and the rest of us Hartmans, it's like living in an astrophysics lecture hall.

"Dark matter is holding them together," George explains.  

"OK, I'm out of here," Emmett answers.

We all laugh about it, but it's also been a marvel to witness.

See, George is autistic, and one of the many blessings of his autism is this ability -- shared by many like him -- to find overwhelming joy in the most underwhelming minutiae.

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Steve Hartman nad his sons George and Emmett.

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"By a strange coincidence, the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun but 400 times closer to the earth," George says. 

Given all that, we made a road trip this week to central Nebraska, found a nice lady who let us use her farm, and waited with the locals.

It was the perfect setting.

"Not me," Emmett says. Perfect,  at least for most of us.  

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George Hartman, 9, watches the eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.

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And as the moon made its way to stardom, I saw something truly marvelous.

You know, so much of parenting is saying "no" and forcing vegetables – but on rare occasion, the heavens align and you're in the perfect position to feed a passion.

I know a lot of people looked up and saw something remarkable this week, but for mothers and fathers like me, the more beautiful sight was the reaction of our precious earthlings.

To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com

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George Hartman, 9, after the eclipse.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.