The Great American Eclipse of 2017.
In the path of totality.
An experience I will never forget.
WAITING FOR THE ECLIPSE TO START
Our house is located at 99.something% totality. But, I heard that 1% makes a world of difference in your experience, so we made plans to enter the path of totality.
I woke up at the sleep depriving hour of 4am, checked Facebook for traffic conditions, packed snacks, milked the goats & woke the kids. We were on the road about 5:15. There was little traffic the entire way. We were meeting some people at a park located within the path of totality. But, when we arrived we realized there were too many trees that would block our view. So, we backtracked and ended up in a random parking area along Highway 22, near Sheridan.
We arrived at our viewing spot with over an hour before the eclipse began. So, dolled up in my galaxy print pants, I went for a short Eclipse Day run.
VIEWING THE PARTIAL PHASES
About 9:05, the moon began its pass in front of the sun.
We watched through our eclipse glasses, of course, but the kids also made pinhole cameras.
One of the guys we were with brought a telescope that he mounted a projector to. It worked perfectly to see the partial eclipse. We could even see sun spots.
In the parking area we met a guy from the Czech Republic. He worked at an observatory and was a physicist student. He told us that 109 earths fit within the diameter of the sun. So, those sun spots we could see were really very large.
Five years ago I tried photographing the sun when Venus was passing between us and the sun. I learned then I needed to plan ahead. So, a couple months before the eclipse I researched how to photograph an eclipse. I don’t know if it’s something I read, or just what I had stuck in my head. But, I purchased a polarizing filter for my camera because that’s what I thought I needed. After the event, I reread online articles and realized I should have been using a solar filter. Duh!
Here is a sample image of what I was getting using the polarizer. Cool in its own way, but not what I was going for. And, probably not the protection my camera needed.
My setup: Canon DSLR, with 250mm zoom lens with polarizing filter attached, mounted on a tripod.
I hand held our solar eclipse glasses in front to use as the solar filter. This did produce the photos I was going for… sometimes. It definitely wasn’t perfect and I will be investing in a solar filter.
To reduce wiggling, I set the timer to 2 seconds instead of pressing the shutter release button.
After the event, many of my friends posted pics of the crescent shapes shining through the trees. The group I was with was in the middle of an open parking area and, unfortunately, none of us noticed these crescents.
However, I did notice oddly placed crescent moon shapes in these photos. My only theory is that when photographing the sun we sometimes get those round flares in the pic and in this case the flare is crescent shaped because the portion of the sun showing, at the time, was crescent shaped. It never crossed my mind that those flares are typically round because the sun is round.
What’s up with our shadows? Some edges seem sharp (notice the right edges of our shirts). Yet, there is a a blurry border around the majority of our shadow. So weird.
The twilight effect came and went fairly quickly. As it was going dim, the coloring was different than normal twilight.
It got noticeably colder. In reality it was only a few degrees cooler, but we could all feel the difference. At some point, maybe about 15 minutes before totality, we also noticed the sun was less intense – obviously because most of it was being blocked by the moon.
The photo on the right amazes me. We were really close to the time of totality. It was quite dark out, yet the little sliver of sun still shining around the moon was so bright the camera on my phone captured it as a bright blur.
Partial phases, as viewed through my camera.
We went from watching with anticipation, to within a split second, the universe sharing the most breathtaking site.
I truly can’t describe it.
My pics are the still version, yet there was nothing still about it. All the flares and glares were dancing around putting on the most spectacular light show.
It was emotionally indescribable, as well.
The white flares of the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) are visible thanks to the moon blocking the intense brightness of the sun.
When we draw pictures of the sun we tend to draw a circle with lines portraying light. These rays of light are the corona. However, the corona is only visible during a total eclipse.
I hope I am correct in identifying the thin red layer at the top of the photo as the sun’s chromosphere, which is a low layer of the sun’s atmosphere.
The larger red spots are solar prominences. They are areas of hot gas jutting out thousands of miles from the chromosphere, seen as tiny flames caused by the activity of sunspots.
The moon is not flat; it is covered in craters and mountains. These irregularities cause some light to get through in some places, but not in others. The light areas are known as Bailey’s beads.
When one bead is left, it is known as the diamond ring effect.
Totality is nearly over. The quickest 2 minutes of my life.
As quick as totality came, it went just as fast.
It was like one second the world was normal as we all know it. Then a flip was switched and for a brief moment we were transformed to an unearthly place. BAM! The flip was switched and back to reality.
Views of the post totality phases
Still in awe. But, kinda sad the moment is over.
It took us twice as long to get home, due to traffic. I didn’t even care, it was absolutely worth it.
The less than 1% literally made all the difference in the world. I would have enjoyed the 99% version from our house and would have sat outside watching the whole thing. I wouldn’t have known what I missed and would have been thrilled with what I saw. However, that last 1% was the most remarkable combination of sight and emotion. Something I just can’t find the right words to describe.
Yes. Yes, I am absolutely looking into the possibilities of viewing another total solar eclipse.
It seems the first chance would be in December of 2021, in Antarctica. This isn’t a great option. There is definitely the possibility of clouds. We would have to view it from some kind of cruise excursion. And, totality only lasts 2ish minutes. However… Antarctica! When would I ever have another excuse to travel to Antarctica?
The better option is 2024 when totality occurs in North America again and this time for 4 minutes. There are a few locations I am interested in, but more research is needed.
The best option is both.