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Your Great American Eclipse Story

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#51 Jeremy Perez

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 02:01 PM

There are so many moving stories here — thanks everyone for reliving the experience through different eyes. I tried to capture my experience and images here:

 

Belt of Venus | 2017 Solar Eclipse

 

Our road trip wound up in Broken Bow, Nebraska the night before, but threat of clouds was too much to bear and we bailed westward at 4AM through a horrendous fogscape. We caught the eclipse under perfect skies in the sand hills north of Mitchell. Intervalometers and a scripting program "Solar Eclipse Maestro" let me pre-arrange the shots so I didn't have to fuss with the camera during totality. No way I would've wanted to mess with images otherwise. 

 

A few of the shots:

 

Corona and Earthshine

img20170821-IMG_5363-Edit-Edit_640px.jpg

 

Observing totality in the sand hills north of Mitchell

img20170821-IMG_5828_640px.jpg

 

Bailey's Beads at the end of totality

 

img20170821-IMG_5385_640px.jpg

 

Diamond Ring effect just before totality

img20170821-IMG_5333_640px.jpg

 


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#52 Chris Boar

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 05:57 PM

We drove down from Vancouver Island to Portland on Sunday. The I5 between Seattle was brutal....took 7.5 hours once we cleared the border.

 

I then dropped off the wife/daughter to stay in Portland...and I headed off to find/stake out a spot just north of Mitchell, about a 3.5 hr drive from Portland, about 2 hrs east of Madras. I'd been pouring over Google maps trying to find some remote spot 10,000 people hadn't already spotted.

 

Anyway arrived about 11.30 at an almost deserted spot on my desired road. Only a couple of cars already parked up waiting.

 

The night sky out in the middle of Oregon was stunning! Did a quick self portrait.....

 

eclipse1.jpg

 

 

 

Couldn't sleep so got up at 5am to get all my kit out. Gorgeous view over the hills.....Venus, Orion, and Pleadies.

 

 

eclipse2.jpg

 

Finally saw the location I had stopped at in the dark. Pretty busy...don't know how I got parked.....

 

eclipse3.jpg

 

 

And I managed to pull off a self portrait during totality....

 

eclipse4.jpg

 

I've also posted a couple of vid's, one is a wide angle video capturing totality and our reactions......I love this one...you can hear girl hikers in the hills freaking out :-) Watch this one full screen and volume up !

 

https://youtu.be/YCOe9HZSemQ

 

And the 2nd is was totality through my little refractor..you can hear my reaction....apologies for the swearing.....:-)

 

https://youtu.be/LuT2FFqKuLg


Edited by Chris Boar, 24 August 2017 - 05:57 PM.

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#53 martini man

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 07:24 AM

Plan A was Cookeville, TN and Plan B was SC (backroads to Lugoff area). After checking numerous weather resources (thank you fellow CN'ers for the links) decided on TN.

 

Traffic not bad at all heading in on Saturday night. Traffic not bad on Monday heading to the lake. Boat launch was not crowded, but some folks were already set up in the parking lot for the celestial show. Final location was on Center Hill Lake for totality. A small group on the boat, what an amazing way to experience totality!! It was hot, but we could jump in the lake to cool off. Quite a number of other boats there but all were spaced out so we did not feel crowded at all. I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the eclipse that I forgot to use the binoculars that I took with me. I did get some pics with a simple point and shoot Nikon.

 

Headed back home early Tuesday due to crazy traffic Monday night.

 

Clear Skies -

 

MM



#54 jeremiah2229

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 04:00 PM

A buddy of mine sent me a couple of images taken with her phone then I sent her a few I had taken with the refractor and she bunched them together into one image. We are definitely not photographers (haha) but I thought it was nice the way she made the collage.  smile.gif   From southern most Illinois.

 

 

Peace...

 

 

 

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#55 woolbrig

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 06:18 PM

Like most I had been looking forward to the 2017 eclipse for several years.  As it approach, so did my excitement.  This would be my first TSE.  In '79 I got to see the partial eclipse but I knew that wouldn't compare.  In the weeks preceding, I must have read the articles in the periodicals 10 times.  I reviewed Xavier's eclipse map daily.

 

Preparation
Where we live was over 99% partial, so we didn't have to travel far.  I had reserved a camp spot in Sparta, IL to park our 30ft travel trailer.  This would allow me to set up for imaging at a leisurely pace and not worry about traffic.  I spent weeks testing my equipment and doing "mock" eclipses.  My plan was to have everything automated so no time would be wasted messing with a cameras during the eclipse. 

 

The Trip
On Friday, we made the short trip the campground.  There was absolutely no traffic and we were one of the first to show up at the campground.  Saturday and Sunday, we drove to Carbondale IL to attend the festivities they were having.  Saturday was spent in Carbondale enjoying the booths and local bands that were playing.  That evening when we got back to camp we discovered the AC in the travel trailer had broken.  It was hotter inside than out!  We went to dinner and a movie in Sparta and by the time we got back it was cool enough to not be uncomfortable.

 

Sunday we when to the SIU campus for the Science Expo they were having.  It was indoors which was nice since it was blistering hot outside.  Listened several lectures and collected swag from the NASA both that was there.  They were also having a carnival so my daughter and I enjoyed a ride or two.  That evening was a repeat of Saturday; dinner and a movie. Both days were great.

 

The Weather
Weather had been a concern the whole week before the eclipse.  One day it was supposed to clear the next it would show a chance of thunderstorms.  My wife said to quit looking, but I couldn't help myself!  When the weekend started it was slated to be partly cloudy.  We had decided before the trip that we were not going to try to chase the eclipse and would just hope things would work out.  Sunday night watching the weather it was predicting clouds for all of Southern Illinois.  It appeared all of our hopes would be dashed.  We considered making a run to Kentucky, but in reality it wasn't feasible pulling a 30 ft trailer with nowhere to put it.

 

The Big Show
Could hardly sleep Sunday night, my excitement mixed with worry of the weather made it hard.  Got up about 6:30 as I couldn't sleep any more.  I had to check the weather outside.  There were only a few high thin clouds.  That was good, but the forecast was for clouds around noon.  Around 8 am I started setting up my equipment.  I wanted to get everything up and do another run through.  All went well.

 

By C1 the thin clouds had all but disappeared and I was getting more excited.  We all watched as the first bite of the sun as taken out by the moon.  During this time I had numerous people stop by to see my setup.  Several asked if I was a professional. lol.gif  They all wanted to take picture of me with the scope for their scrap book. lol

 

Thirty minutes before C2 I did my planned meridian flip.  All is going well.  About 20 minutes to C2 went to center the sun in the frame and got the dreaded “Error 16/17” on my ASGT5.  Panic set in for a minute, as I thought about if I had time to reset everything.  Fortunately hitting “Back” cleared the error.  Whew!

 

C2 approached, still clear but there were some cumulus clouds on the horizon.  My anticipation was rising.  It was getting darker now with the eerie color to the shadow.  One minute to totality and no clouds anywhere near!  C2 is here!  Oops forgot to take the solar filter off (missed Bailey’s Beads and the Diamond Ring exposures).  Wow!!! We are all in awe as we watch. What an incredible sight. It’s over?  Was that really 2min 6sec?  Seemed more like 5 seconds!  Words really can’t describe seeing an event like this.

 

The rest of the eclipse went smoothly equipment wise.  I did get the “Error 16/17” a couple more times but was able to correct it.  About 15 minutes after C4 the clouds started rolling in.  It was as if they had stayed away just for us (and the 800+ other camp sites).  Started tearing down and hit the road about an hour later.  Hit some heavy traffic coming out of St. Louis at I55/70 that delayed us about an hour but nothing like others had.  By 7 pm we were home and it was over.

 

Hmm… Is it really almost 7 years to the next one?  Doh!


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#56 Davidsonville

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 10:49 PM

I drove about 250 miles to Bowling Green KY with my wife and two of my three grown children.  It was a great day.  Hot, but not a cloud in the sky during the eclipse.

 

I projected the eclipse with a 3" open refractor which worked out well.  There was a lot of interest in the set-up by the crowd.  I think many people liked it because it was the only good way for them to take a reasonable picture of the partial phases (that's the case for me, also). 

 

We had some traffic going down and lots coming home, but surprisingly that added something for me - made it more of a significant event and somehow fun realizing that I knew that so many other people in the traffic were going to/coming from the same thing as us.

 

My third child drove from her home in GA about 2 hours to totality and we shared experiences by texting.  I didn't know how much she was into it and was very happy to hear how interested she was.  Her friends bought counterfeit glasses which she didn't learn about until last week and she was willing to spend $140 for 10 pair from Amazon at the last minute to be sure she got official ones in time.

 

The whole day - the planning, the weather checking, the packing the car with equipment, chairs, food, etc; the drive with traffic; and obviously the eclipse itself and all spent with my family (live and virtual)- was really one of the best days I've had.

 

Charles

We flew to Cincinnati and drove to Bowling Green. Looks like you were at the dairy farm too! Great atmosphere and ice cream! 


Edited by Davidsonville, 25 August 2017 - 10:50 PM.


#57 BlakeMC

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 08:31 AM

Sometime around the year 2000 I told my wife there would be an eclipse in 2017 that would pass through Idaho and we should plan on going.  We would have teenagers by then, and that would be a great experience for them.

 

About 3 years ago I started more serious planning and discovered the center of totality would fall on the North Menan Butte.  Menan is my mother's childhood home and I had been there many times in my youth.  It seemed like the perfect spot and we still had some relatives in the area where I could possible park an RV.

 

About 1 year ago the last relative left Menan, and it started to look like the Menan Buttes could be rather crowded for the eclipse.  Backup plan moved to Driggs Idaho where a brother-in-law has property, however that was 'iffy' as it was being rented.

 

About 1 month ago at an extended family gathering I met my sister-in-law's brother-in-law who owns a farm in Driggs Idaho.  He offered to let us park our RV in one of his pastures.

 

This farm turned out to be the ideal spot for watching the eclipse.  Set on the eastern side of the Teton Valley in the middle of open hay fields we had not only an unobstructed view of the sky, but also of the valley and the mountains to the west.  We watched as the moon's shadow approached and turned the western mountains dark while we were still in the waning moments of sunlight.  At mid-day under a crystal blue sky we watched a range of mountains go dark, one of the strangest sights I will ever see.

 

Traffic:

Busy but freeway speeds going up I15 from Utah.  We took the back way home through Wyoming where we had a 2 hour delay along Palisades Lake, but otherwise freeway speeds.

 

A thousand thank-yous to our kind host!  My wife and two teenage boys shared an experience we will never forget.


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#58 REC

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 08:57 AM

Like most I had been looking forward to the 2017 eclipse for several years.  As it approach, so did my excitement.  This would be my first TSE.  In '79 I got to see the partial eclipse but I knew that wouldn't compare.  In the weeks preceding, I must have read the articles in the periodicals 10 times.  I reviewed Xavier's eclipse map daily.

 

Preparation
Where we live was over 99% partial, so we didn't have to travel far.  I had reserved a camp spot in Sparta, IL to park our 30ft travel trailer.  This would allow me to set up for imaging at a leisurely pace and not worry about traffic.  I spent weeks testing my equipment and doing "mock" eclipses.  My plan was to have everything automated so no time would be wasted messing with a cameras during the eclipse. 

 

The Trip
On Friday, we made the short trip the campground.  There was absolutely no traffic and we were one of the first to show up at the campground.  Saturday and Sunday, we drove to Carbondale IL to attend the festivities they were having.  Saturday was spent in Carbondale enjoying the booths and local bands that were playing.  That evening when we got back to camp we discovered the AC in the travel trailer had broken.  It was hotter inside than out!  We went to dinner and a movie in Sparta and by the time we got back it was cool enough to not be uncomfortable.

 

Sunday we when to the SIU campus for the Science Expo they were having.  It was indoors which was nice since it was blistering hot outside.  Listened several lectures and collected swag from the NASA both that was there.  They were also having a carnival so my daughter and I enjoyed a ride or two.  That evening was a repeat of Saturday; dinner and a movie. Both days were great.

 

The Weather
Weather had been a concern the whole week before the eclipse.  One day it was supposed to clear the next it would show a chance of thunderstorms.  My wife said to quit looking, but I couldn't help myself!  When the weekend started it was slated to be partly cloudy.  We had decided before the trip that we were not going to try to chase the eclipse and would just hope things would work out.  Sunday night watching the weather it was predicting clouds for all of Southern Illinois.  It appeared all of our hopes would be dashed.  We considered making a run to Kentucky, but in reality it wasn't feasible pulling a 30 ft trailer with nowhere to put it.

 

The Big Show
Could hardly sleep Sunday night, my excitement mixed with worry of the weather made it hard.  Got up about 6:30 as I couldn't sleep any more.  I had to check the weather outside.  There were only a few high thin clouds.  That was good, but the forecast was for clouds around noon.  Around 8 am I started setting up my equipment.  I wanted to get everything up and do another run through.  All went well.

 

By C1 the thin clouds had all but disappeared and I was getting more excited.  We all watched as the first bite of the sun as taken out by the moon.  During this time I had numerous people stop by to see my setup.  Several asked if I was a professional. lol.gif  They all wanted to take picture of me with the scope for their scrap book. lol

 

Thirty minutes before C2 I did my planned meridian flip.  All is going well.  About 20 minutes to C2 went to center the sun in the frame and got the dreaded “Error 16/17” on my ASGT5.  Panic set in for a minute, as I thought about if I had time to reset everything.  Fortunately hitting “Back” cleared the error.  Whew!

 

C2 approached, still clear but there were some cumulus clouds on the horizon.  My anticipation was rising.  It was getting darker now with the eerie color to the shadow.  One minute to totality and no clouds anywhere near!  C2 is here!  Oops forgot to take the solar filter off (missed Bailey’s Beads and the Diamond Ring exposures).  Wow!!! We are all in awe as we watch. What an incredible sight. It’s over?  Was that really 2min 6sec?  Seemed more like 5 seconds!  Words really can’t describe seeing an event like this.

 

The rest of the eclipse went smoothly equipment wise.  I did get the “Error 16/17” a couple more times but was able to correct it.  About 15 minutes after C4 the clouds started rolling in.  It was as if they had stayed away just for us (and the 800+ other camp sites).  Started tearing down and hit the road about an hour later.  Hit some heavy traffic coming out of St. Louis at I55/70 that delayed us about an hour but nothing like others had.  By 7 pm we were home and it was over.

 

Hmm… Is it really almost 7 years to the next one?  Doh!

Great story, love reading these! Glad to see you are "human" too, forgeting to pull the filter...lol. But you did get the main event, the glorious corona! Better than the first one I saw in 1998. I missed the diamond ring with my eyes in a binocular, pulled back just as the one side of the sun started to get brighter. 20-20 hindsight, I could have stayed another second or two, but, that ok.



#59 calerner

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 02:59 PM

 

I drove about 250 miles to Bowling Green KY with my wife and two of my three grown children.  It was a great day.  Hot, but not a cloud in the sky during the eclipse.

 

I projected the eclipse with a 3" open refractor which worked out well.  There was a lot of interest in the set-up by the crowd.  I think many people liked it because it was the only good way for them to take a reasonable picture of the partial phases (that's the case for me, also). 

 

We had some traffic going down and lots coming home, but surprisingly that added something for me - made it more of a significant event and somehow fun realizing that I knew that so many other people in the traffic were going to/coming from the same thing as us.

 

My third child drove from her home in GA about 2 hours to totality and we shared experiences by texting.  I didn't know how much she was into it and was very happy to hear how interested she was.  Her friends bought counterfeit glasses which she didn't learn about until last week and she was willing to spend $140 for 10 pair from Amazon at the last minute to be sure she got official ones in time.

 

The whole day - the planning, the weather checking, the packing the car with equipment, chairs, food, etc; the drive with traffic; and obviously the eclipse itself and all spent with my family (live and virtual)- was really one of the best days I've had.

 

Charles

We flew to Cincinnati and drove to Bowling Green. Looks like you were at the dairy farm too! Great atmosphere and ice cream! 

 

You're right...we were at the dairy farm.  Originally we were going to go to a different site just a little farther north, but then realized that we'd get about 20-25 seconds more of totality for only 4 more miles of driving.  We were glad with the extra time and we all liked the farm, too.



#60 hm insulators

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 06:22 PM

I drove over to Branson, Missouri, where an old friend who once lived in Hawaii now resides, to see him and his wife Pamela and used his home as a base of operation. Because my old Buick probably couldn't make the trip, I rented a car to drive from Phoenix to Branson. It took about three days. I got to Branson early Saturday afternoon (the 19th). Saturday and Sunday were spent visiting with my friend Juan and exploring Branson. 

 

The big day came: I left Branson about 5AM, drove north to Springfield, MO, ate breakfast and picked up I-44. About a hundred miles or so later, I picked up a road that led to a town called Potosi, about fifty miles southwest of St. Louis and well within the umbral path, if not at the exact centerline. I had done some research on line before I left Phoenix and decided to sacrifice a few seconds of totality. My game plan was to watch the eclipse, then immediately pick up the smaller of two roads that led south out of Potosi and hopefully, away from the traffic jams, then wander primarily the smaller roads back to Branson.

 

I finally got to Potosi about 10:30 or thereabouts. I parked my car about a mile away from this little park I had found on line when I was studying the town's layout because I wanted to be away from any traffic next to the park and close to the highway headed south. (As it turned out, I could have parked close to the park.) 

 

I hung out at the park, chatting with a few of the locals, reading my book and trying to dry my shirt out. The park was down a little bit by a creek and filled with large trees, but just a couple hundred feet up a ramp, some people were having an eclipse party outside a small gazebo and when I checked, I knew I could get a pretty good view of the umbra when it wandered in.

 

As the moon slowly blocked out the sun, I saw the light dimming, especially when I was in the shade of the trees in the park. About fifteen minutes before totality, I decided to head up to the gazebo. There were a few scattered small cumulus clouds and I was hoping that they would stay away from the sun. As it got darker, the clouds were very pretty pastel lavenders and pinks; colors which I have never seen before from clouds. 

 

Totality! It didn't get completely dark, but it was like a deep twilight, dark enough for the street lamps to go on. It took me a split second to recognize the corona! I've seen numerous pictures of the solar corona but this was different: The corona shimmered and glowed eerily, like something out of a movie--no camera could ever do it justice. I saw Venus. I quickly tried to find other bright stars but when I couldn't, I immediately abandoned that search, not wanting to waste any time. The small cumulus clouds were now dark, but there were a few higher cirrus-type clouds that still reflected sunlight back to the ground. The temperature dropped. Everybody at the party was going bonkers, cheering and hollering. I was speechless. All too soon, totality ended (it only seemed like it was about one minute or so). I took advantage of the cooler temperatures to walk to my car and picked up the highway south out of Potosi, and as it turned out, my plan went perfectly: There was almost no traffic except for a Swift truck that I was wondering what in the world it was doing on this smaller road; I suspect the truck driver took it by mistake, thinking he was on the other, larger highway. After a few miles, I was able to get around him and made my way back to Branson via the smaller roads. I had hoped to grab a steak on the way home, but I decided to take a back road that I didn't really have time for and I ended up settling for some so-so orange chicken at a Chinese restaurant in some small town or other.

 

Tuesday, I left my friends' house and spent that evening in Norman, Oklahoma. I managed to visit Mike at Astronomics where cloudynights.com is based. (Thank you, Mike, for the suggestion of Charleston's, although I should've ordered a big slab o' prime rib instead of the rather small top sirloin.grin.gif Better luck next time.)


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#61 LivingNDixie

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 09:05 PM

I was in White House TN in a Walmart parking lot. It looked a little sketchy weather wise but in the end it all worked out. It started to clear as the Sun got covered by the Moon. There were people mostly from Indiana and Ohio. There was a nice couple from FL who I talked to about the Winter Star Party. He had an ETX set There was a couple from Germany too. A really nice family from NY were nearby with an awesome Questar setup. Most folks had eclipse glasses. I had my PST set up.

White House TN was very close to the longest totality line.

I drove up from home in Birmingham leaving the house at 4am. Hardly any traffic till Nashville. Coming home was a different matter. Lots of broke down vehicles and wrecks.

Totality was incredible and worth the drive. My extended family did not feel the drive would be worth it, so I went by myself. I haven't tried to explain what they missed, but the best analogy I have come up with is the difference between watching a child born on a TV show vs your own child being born.

One neat fact, one of the NASA WB-57 flew over us. It was chasing the eclipse.
https://www.nasa.gov...a-s-wb-57f-jets
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#62 sparkyht

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 11:12 PM

I was originally going to go down to Alliance, NE with my family early in the AM 8/21, but the cloud cover models were not looking good and a last glimpse of the GOES16 infrared before midnight 8/20 sealed it for me. Glendo, WY was only an additional 45 minutes drive from Rapid City and was a guaranteed cloud-free observing location. There was also first come first serve free parking at the Thomas Memorial Airport available for observers and plenty of rural roads in the area with pull-offs in case the lots came up full. There were zero traffic issues on the way in, the gas station we stopped at in Lusk was packed with people heading to various places to watch the spectacle though.The only main concern was hitting one of the many deer seen grazing off the side of the highway the entire way down. Sunrise was a welcome sight, and revealed crystal clear skies from horizon to horizon. After a 3 hour and 10 minutes drive, we rolled up to the parking area with the sun peeking over the horizon and in the air was the smell of sage, which was covering the entire grass airfield in little clumps. The weather was nearly perfect, it started out chilly but quickly warmed into the 80's until after 1st contact. It was quite windy all morning, but it managed to calm down considerably just before totality. Lots of people from many states were in attendance, many from Colorado. Some brought loads of gear for photography, others brought observing equipment such as telescopes and various projector contraptions. Many just showed up with a blanket and some eclipse glasses. The little town of around 200 did an excellent job at hosting. They provided plenty of parking, camping space, food and souvenir vendors, and bathroom facilities for everyone. My son and I picked up a couple locally made commemorative shirts, of which they ran out of very quickly! I had plenty of time to set up and get everything in order, then walked around to check out some of the other equipment and peer though some really nice telescopes. I kind of knew what to expect before and during totality, but I was taken aback when I actually started to experience it. First thing was I noticed that it became too dark to wear sunglasses. I took them off and found myself not feeling the need to squint while looking around the bright tan-yellow Wyoming landscape. We all noticed that it was getting cooler, I didn't bring equipment to get an actual reading but it was considerable. Then the colors got weird, shadows became harsh.  Right under the 2 minute mark, some hot air balloons flew right overhead and in the path of the eclipsing sun. The crowd and myself completely went nuts...we were all shouting "NO NO NO NO, get outta the way!!" or something like that, some more colorful than others. Someone jokingly barked; "I got a shotgun and I'm not afraid to use it!" It was tense, but they floated away with at least a minute to spare. The darkness in the west was coming in fast, then, TOTALITY! What an OH MY GOD moment it was for all of us! The experience of seeing our FIRST total solar eclipse was magical, no dare I say, SPIRITUAL. My wife and son were awestruck, I was literally tingling from the adrenaline coursing through my veins. The crowd around us was full of energy; cheering, hooting, hollering, some nearly crying with joy. I could hear my camera clicking away, but I dared not check it lest I miss the spectacle before my eyes. Then as fast as it started.... it was over. For the next 5 minutes after, all I could do was display an idiotic grin on my face and shout "WOW!". I was shaking, literally shaking from the rush I was experiencing. I crumpled into my chair, briefly checked the pictures that were coming into the computer and breathed a sigh of relief that my automation script/camera/computer all worked. WHEW!

 

I had been waiting for this moment for many years. At one point I didn't even know how I was going to see the eclipse, just that I wanted to see it. I never had the means to travel around the world to view an eclipse and I still don't, to have one cut across the American homeland made it finally possible. A little over a year ago, I brought the idea of a vacation to South Dakota to my wife. She was all for it, of course. When I told her that one of the 7 days would be dedicated to chasing a total solar eclipse, she was like " oh, I see you have an ulterior motive". I assured her that she and our son would have their minds blown by what they would see. Mission accomplished. Sioux Falls Park, Badlands, Devil's Tower, Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore... TOTAL. SOLAR. ECLIPSE. BOOM!!!!

 

Now the drive back to Rapid City is a whole 'nother story. It was frustrating at the time because I only got 2 hours of sleep the night prior after a long road trip out to Devil's Tower, but once I got to the hotel room 6 hours later, it didn't matter. It was totally worth it.
 

Not sure what I'm going to do about 2024 right now, but I'll get to it eventually. Still ridin' the high from last Monday.

 

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#63 Brianfromsyr

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 06:44 AM

My buddy and I squeezed in a last minute trip. We drove from Syracuse N.Y. to Cleveland. Flew to Denver for a National Park and eclipse trip.
Our eclipse destination was supposed to be Jackson Hole. Turned out the day before on the big hotel chain website a room popped up in Pocatello Id for $130 with points $98!
The next day we were going to head to Rigby so that we could visit Jackson Hole and Yellowstone later that day. Turned out that a nice park in Idaho Falls presented itself.
I will admit emotions took over right at totality. It was so amazing!
The other day I called my friend to see if all of our hotel bills hit his card so that we could settle up.
Turned out that the hotel in Pocatello tried to charge us $564! It will be corrected by Tuesday, but the nerve !
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#64 oncefaster

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 03:24 PM

I penned a 5 segment narrative (with the last the actual eclipse experience) on my Facebook page: Richard Kim Kniseley. If you really have time on your hands feel free to take a look. The few who read it so far thought it was good.



#65 Drew57

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 11:17 PM

My eclipse trip started off with an unusual occurrence. Had the 4Runner all packed up with the gear on the 19th, so easy morning for departure. I arrived right on schedule at my friends house about 4:30 am for the drive down to Kansas City. He wanted me to back up near his garage, which I did and opened the back of the truck to add his stuff.

 

I was a bit sleepy still, and so walked around a bit, stretched, and ambled over to briefly look at his neighbors stone wall and iron fence which I thought was very nicely done. Dayton was trying to find something in his garage he wanted to bring. I got back in the 4Runner and sipped some coffee.

 

Soon a vehicle slowly drove down a nearby alley, and I was wondering if it was an SUV with roof rack or could it be...a police car? It stops and shuts off its lights, waits; definitely the police. I roll my window all the way down and place my arm atop the door. Two officers get out and start to walk towards me, both immediately placing their hands on their pistols.

 

I'm not sleepy anymore! They walk up cautiously and I say "Good morning officers, what's up?" They ask if I've called 911. I answer "no" but before I can tell them I'm there to pick up my friend for eclipse trip they see Dayton in his garage and circle around front; one keeping a steady eye on me while the other approaches my friend...hands still on weapons.

 

After some questions Dayton produces his driver's license and the officers relax a bit, but the one is still eyeing me pretty carefully and hand on weapon so I decide to sit tight. Decide not to take a drink from my stainless coffee mug. Once all is resolved they head back to the squad and linger for a while.

 

Dayton and I teasingly refer to the officers as Pancho & Lefty when discussing the event once we're on the road south, but they were just doing their job the way they should. Because of some controversial officer involved shootings here in MN it was just an unusual backdrop for the start of our eclipse trip.

 

Sure woke me up in a hurry, I don't think I got tired until Mason City!



#66 caveman_astronomer

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 07:37 AM

My eclipse trip started off with an unusual occurrence. Had the 4Runner all packed up with the gear on the 19th, so easy morning for departure. I arrived right on schedule at my friends house about 4:30 am for the drive down to Kansas City. He wanted me to back up near his garage, which I did and opened the back of the truck to add his stuff.

 

I was a bit sleepy still, and so walked around a bit, stretched, and ambled over to briefly look at his neighbors stone wall and iron fence which I thought was very nicely done. Dayton was trying to find something in his garage he wanted to bring. I got back in the 4Runner and sipped some coffee.

 

Soon a vehicle slowly drove down a nearby alley, and I was wondering if it was an SUV with roof rack or could it be...a police car? It stops and shuts off its lights, waits; definitely the police. I roll my window all the way down and place my arm atop the door. Two officers get out and start to walk towards me, both immediately placing their hands on their pistols.

 

I'm not sleepy anymore! They walk up cautiously and I say "Good morning officers, what's up?" They ask if I've called 911. I answer "no" but before I can tell them I'm there to pick up my friend for eclipse trip they see Dayton in his garage and circle around front; one keeping a steady eye on me while the other approaches my friend...hands still on weapons.

 

After some questions Dayton produces his driver's license and the officers relax a bit, but the one is still eyeing me pretty carefully and hand on weapon so I decide to sit tight. Decide not to take a drink from my stainless coffee mug. Once all is resolved they head back to the squad and linger for a while.

 

Dayton and I teasingly refer to the officers as Pancho & Lefty when discussing the event once we're on the road south, but they were just doing their job the way they should. Because of some controversial officer involved shootings here in MN it was just an unusual backdrop for the start of our eclipse trip.

 

Sure woke me up in a hurry, I don't think I got tired until Mason City!

You two were guilty of aggravated mopery.  You really shouldn't be out in your own driveway at such odd hours.  Guilty until proven innocent.  Watch the eclipse on TV next time, like you're supposed to.


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#67 REC

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 08:34 AM

I was originally going to go down to Alliance, NE with my family early in the AM 8/21, but the cloud cover models were not looking good and a last glimpse of the GOES16 infrared before midnight 8/20 sealed it for me. Glendo, WY was only an additional 45 minutes drive from Rapid City and was a guaranteed cloud-free observing location. There was also first come first serve free parking at the Thomas Memorial Airport available for observers and plenty of rural roads in the area with pull-offs in case the lots came up full. There were zero traffic issues on the way in, the gas station we stopped at in Lusk was packed with people heading to various places to watch the spectacle though.The only main concern was hitting one of the many deer seen grazing off the side of the highway the entire way down. Sunrise was a welcome sight, and revealed crystal clear skies from horizon to horizon. After a 3 hour and 10 minutes drive, we rolled up to the parking area with the sun peeking over the horizon and in the air was the smell of sage, which was covering the entire grass airfield in little clumps. The weather was nearly perfect, it started out chilly but quickly warmed into the 80's until after 1st contact. It was quite windy all morning, but it managed to calm down considerably just before totality. Lots of people from many states were in attendance, many from Colorado. Some brought loads of gear for photography, others brought observing equipment such as telescopes and various projector contraptions. Many just showed up with a blanket and some eclipse glasses. The little town of around 200 did an excellent job at hosting. They provided plenty of parking, camping space, food and souvenir vendors, and bathroom facilities for everyone. My son and I picked up a couple locally made commemorative shirts, of which they ran out of very quickly! I had plenty of time to set up and get everything in order, then walked around to check out some of the other equipment and peer though some really nice telescopes. I kind of knew what to expect before and during totality, but I was taken aback when I actually started to experience it. First thing was I noticed that it became too dark to wear sunglasses. I took them off and found myself not feeling the need to squint while looking around the bright tan-yellow Wyoming landscape. We all noticed that it was getting cooler, I didn't bring equipment to get an actual reading but it was considerable. Then the colors got weird, shadows became harsh.  Right under the 2 minute mark, some hot air balloons flew right overhead and in the path of the eclipsing sun. The crowd and myself completely went nuts...we were all shouting "NO NO NO NO, get outta the way!!" or something like that, some more colorful than others. Someone jokingly barked; "I got a shotgun and I'm not afraid to use it!" It was tense, but they floated away with at least a minute to spare. The darkness in the west was coming in fast, then, TOTALITY! What an OH MY GOD moment it was for all of us! The experience of seeing our FIRST total solar eclipse was magical, no dare I say, SPIRITUAL. My wife and son were awestruck, I was literally tingling from the adrenaline coursing through my veins. The crowd around us was full of energy; cheering, hooting, hollering, some nearly crying with joy. I could hear my camera clicking away, but I dared not check it lest I miss the spectacle before my eyes. Then as fast as it started.... it was over. For the next 5 minutes after, all I could do was display an idiotic grin on my face and shout "WOW!". I was shaking, literally shaking from the rush I was experiencing. I crumpled into my chair, briefly checked the pictures that were coming into the computer and breathed a sigh of relief that my automation script/camera/computer all worked. WHEW!

 

I had been waiting for this moment for many years. At one point I didn't even know how I was going to see the eclipse, just that I wanted to see it. I never had the means to travel around the world to view an eclipse and I still don't, to have one cut across the American homeland made it finally possible. A little over a year ago, I brought the idea of a vacation to South Dakota to my wife. She was all for it, of course. When I told her that one of the 7 days would be dedicated to chasing a total solar eclipse, she was like " oh, I see you have an ulterior motive". I assured her that she and our son would have their minds blown by what they would see. Mission accomplished. Sioux Falls Park, Badlands, Devil's Tower, Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore... TOTAL. SOLAR. ECLIPSE. BOOM!!!!

 

Now the drive back to Rapid City is a whole 'nother story. It was frustrating at the time because I only got 2 hours of sleep the night prior after a long road trip out to Devil's Tower, but once I got to the hotel room 6 hours later, it didn't matter. It was totally worth it.
 

Not sure what I'm going to do about 2024 right now, but I'll get to it eventually. Still ridin' the high from last Monday.

 

Awesome story, awesome image, awesome trip! Gave me the goose bumps just reading it, Kudos! I wish I had a better experience, the heat was killing me. I had to go back into the hotel every 20 minutes to cool off, thank God it was there!



#68 PaulEK

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 05:40 PM

Here's mine, originally an email I sent out to friends and family several days ago. It's more readable at this spot (scroll down just a bit), I think, and that linked post includes a bunch of photos, many referenced in the text, which are larger than can be posted here on CN.

 

I do tend to go on....

 

August 28, 2017

Hi Everyone!

We were gone for more than three weeks, so this will hardly be a complete description of our adventure, even though this has turned into a very long email, but Bjorn (my sixteen-year-old son, for anyone who might not know him) and I had a fantastic eclipse trip.

We left on August 3rd, and headed west, stopping at many places along the way out to Oregon, including these National Parks: Badlands, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier. Smoke was very bad in some places, especially the Grand Tetons. I had hoped to do some large format (5x7) film photography, but that didn’t work out before the eclipse. Still, we saw lots of wildlife, went to some great museums and visitor centers, stayed in some beautiful campgrounds – sleeping in either our tent or on the platform bed we built in the back of our minivan – and had an overall great time.

In Oregon, several days ahead of time, we scouted out a place to view the eclipse from. I could write pages about everything I’d read ahead of time, and all we went through. There were ‘gloom and doom’ predictions of overcrowding, price gouging, traffic jams, and other dire stuff. And we did experience some negatives, but nothing very terrible.

We arrived for scouting in central Oregon (where the climatic conditions predicted the best chance of clear skies along the eclipse path in late August) on Wednesday, the 16th, and stopped at the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) office. We had decided that staying on land somewhere off the highway would be the best thing for us to do, and there is a huge amount of BLM land out there. We wanted to know the rules (how far from the road, trails, waterways, should we be; waste disposal; etc.), but also wanted some local advice on good prospects with wide views.

It turned out that they were waiting for us. They had set up tables outside their offices, and were joined by US Forest Service Rangers, whose offices are right next door. They were all very helpful, and gave us very detailed directions to several spots – and free maps! (We both love maps. If you do, too, you can look at the map below to see the red dot [where we stayed for the eclipse], and the blue dot [where I had thought we might, but keep reading to find out why we didn’t]. For scale, Madras is about 20 miles from Prineville.)

So Bjorn and I got back in our minivan, and headed east along US Highway 26, to check out the spots that I had researched weeks ago online. Or we tried to.

On our way through Prineville, we had seen one of those roadside digital signs, flashing the message ‘EVENT AHEAD...16 MILES...EVENT AHEAD...16 MILES...’ I had asked the rangers about this, and they had told me there was a festival of some kind, taking place in the mountains. They had not seemed very concerned, so neither were we. But six or seven miles out of town – far before we’d gone 16 miles – traffic came to a standstill. We moved one car length in fifteen minutes. I started to freak out a bit (okay, more than a bit). How could this be happening five days before eclipse day?!? I finally turned off the car, got out, and went to talk to the driver of the car behind me. He said, ‘Yes, this is the line for early arrivals to the festival.’ (He was about 23, and sounded French). ‘We were told to expect to wait in line for from two to six hours to get in.’ I told him that I just wanted to use the main east-west highway across this part of Oregon to look for a place to camp in the desert. He said, ‘Oh my, that would be difficult for you. I think it would be best for you to turn around and find another way.’ He was very polite, so I didn’t tell him, there is no other way!

I did turn around, and went back to the rangers to tell them what was happening. They had no idea, and were grateful for the information (they looked very unhappy, and a couple of them walked away, as though they were going to do something about it, or at least tell others who needed to know). Another showed me on a map just where the festival was taking place. 16 miles was just the distance to the turnoff from the highway. The festival itself was still several more miles along another, not very good, road. She also told us that people had paid $400 to attend the five-day event, and that the $400 did not include food or drink. The organizers had a permit to allow, and were expecting (so they said) 34,000 people! In all my research ahead of time, I had not heard about this. I knew there were lots of folks expected in Madras, the nearest town of any size to the centerline of the eclipse in this part of the state (they were renting out 20x20 foot spaces in a park for $40 a day). We found out later that there was more than one festival in the area, and that the one that blocked us actually had 110,000 people show up!! I hope this was not actually true; we just heard from a man working at a gas station miles away, days afterwards.

Bjorn and I decided that our original spot was right out. We talked to a Forest Service ranger about the Crooked River National Grassland as an option The Forest Service oversees National Grasslands). He gave us several spots to look over, and we did. Some of the gravel roads and dirt 'two-tracks' were really bad, and I feared for our trusty minivan. We saw that there was lots of space, and figured we’d find one easily, if we came back on Saturday. So we headed toward a few days along the Oregon coast.

It turns out we could have come back on Sunday. We found a great spot without even looking very hard, and had no close neighbors. A few people stopped by after we had set up, and said they might be back to join us, but no one did. We could see several mountains to the west: Mounts Hood (60 miles away) and Jefferson (30 miles), and the Sisters (40?) It was beautiful (see the attached photos).

I’m glad we did come back on Saturday, though, because it gave us all of Saturday afternoon and evening to get our camp set up: tent, cots, ‘outhouse’ (an old milk crate with part of its bottom cut out, turned upside down behind a small juniper tree), table, chairs, and all the astro-stuff (For anyone who cares: my Losmandy G-11 mount; the 4-inch f/6.3 William Optics apochromatic refractor; the 3-inch f/15 Edmunds achromatic refractor, both with filters on them to block most of the sun’s light during the partial parts of the eclipse; the Canon T1i DSLR, and our laptop, with the eclipse-image capture scripting program SETnC [Solar Eclipse Timer and Camera controller] installed. We also had two different ‘finders’, one a small, low-powered telescope, with a filter on it, and the other one made by me out of a Pringle’s can, with a pinhole in the bottom. And we also had filters on one of our pairs of binoculars.) We then had all of Sunday to check and test that everything was set up and working properly.

I had only found out about SETnC and other, similar programs, a few weeks before leaving on the trip. The name is a good one, since it allows you to get everything set up ahead of time, so that you don’t need to even look at your camera while the eclipse is going on, and can just enjoy seeing it. I had bought Canon’s latest model consumer DSLR for the trip, but, unfortunately, it is so new, that SETnC would not work with it, even though I was in touch with its creator in Switzerland. He was very kind, and generous with his time, but without a T7i (my camera) in his hands, he could not solve the issues it had running with SETnC. Still, my old camera, a T1i that I have given to Bjorn just before the trip, worked just great with it.

Both Saturday and Sunday were perfect days at our campsite, with almost no clouds, and only very thin smoke. But when I stuck my head out of the tent on Monday morning, just as the sun was rising, I saw it through a brown haze. Rats! And as it came up, we could barely see Mount Hood in the distance, and the top of Mount Jefferson was invisible through a white, impenetrable layer. I had read that the top of the mountain would go black seconds before totality reached us near Madras (Bjorn thought that was wrong; and figured that it would be close to exactly a minute [he turned out to be spot on]). Then, we would be able to watch the moon’s shadow race toward us at over 2,000 miles per hour. Now, it looked like we’d miss at least part of that. But we could still see the snow-covered flanks of the mountain below the smoke, and as the sun rose higher, we could also see that there was a hole in the smoke around it, and that it looked as though the sun would be right in the center of that hole at eclipse time. And it was!

SETnC was running on the laptop, and just before the partial phase of the eclipse started – when the moon first bites into the edge of the sun – it made the camera, attached to the 4-inch telescope, snap a couple of images at different settings. In order for the program to work, it needed to have our exact location on the earth – latitude, longitude, and elevation above sea level – entered into it. This is easy enough to do if you have a smart phone with a signal, but we had neither (a smart phone nor a signal). Instead, Bjorn used one of the very detailed maps given to us by the rangers, a ruler, and geometry, to measure all these things. He needed the ruler because the map did not have longitude nor latitude marked in very fine detail, so he had to figure out how many seconds of arc there were per millimeter, and then plot our location. He used our knowledge of the elevation of Madras (also on the map), visible some exact number of miles away and below us, to determine our elevation, using simple geometry and his eyes. Our resulting images show that he was very close to exact in his measurements.

SETnC took photos nine minutes apart during the partial phases (that was the longest it allows between them; we weren't really interested in taking lots of these, and wanted to save storage space on the camera's card), and then bunches during totality. It took 48 altogether, before, during, and after totality. It was especially active around the beginning (contact point 2, or C2) and end (C3) of totality, since this is when special things happen. It snapped  as many as it could. The limiting factor – again, for those who care – is the time it takes for the camera and laptop to communicate. I’ve attached some quickly processed, low-resolution samples that I thought folks might like. Another image shows Bjorn looking into the box which contained our laptop. It’s a free way to be able to see the screen in full sunlight. In the same photo, you can see Mount Hood in the distance, and all of our astro gear set up for imaging the eclipse. But this was taken on Sunday.

On Monday, we had our eyes on the sky, not our cameras or laptop. As the partial eclipse approached totality, we both noticed a definite change in the light, especially after about the 85% phase. We talked about it at the time; how it seemed dim, like at dusk; but unlike at dusk, colors were not different (Bjorn later said it felt like he was on a sound stage, where a Western was being filmed). The temperature went down by, we figure, at least ten to fifteen degrees. We saw the predicted shadow climb down the mountain, and I noticed the huge circle of darkness come towards us, visible from the horizon to the zenith, and then saw that the circle grew around us, so that, once totality arrived, the circle nearly filled the sky, except for the horizon all around. During totality, I made sure to remember to look around, and to say out loud what I was seeing. (I had read that it’s easy to just look at the hole where the sun used to be.) We saw Venus bright in the sky. We saw stars, and Bjorn even noticed what constellations they were in. We saw that Mount Hood, outside the path of totality, looked like it was at sunset. When totality reached us, we learned that we did have neighbors, because we heard them cheer, several hundred yards away. And we heard a coyote howl! I was disappointed to notice that the view of the edge of the blackened sun was not clear through my left eye, so I closed it and used my right eye, which saw things much better. My left eye is very dominant, so I’m glad I thought to do this. Neither of us thought to pick up the binoculars to look through them at totality. But that’s okay. I had thought of taking a few images with my camera handheld, but didn’t think of that, either. Who cares? I did seem to notice a bit of red on the right side of the sun, and images taken with SETnC told me later that I was not imagining it. Though we both spent time looking all around, we were both looking at the sun just as totality ended, and saw the ‘diamond ring’ effect (where the first point of light from the sun shines through a gap on the surface of the moon) before looking away. It was all so cool. And too short.

As the partial phase ended about an hour later, Bjorn had a good idea. He was looking at the sun through our 3-inch refractor, and said he’d say ‘Done!’ when it looked to his eye like the eclipse had ended. He wanted me to watch the countdown on the laptop, which was ticking away to the tenth of a second on the SETnC window. He did not know how close it was to being finished and didn’t want me to say, but he said ‘Done!’ less than a second before the computer showed zero. That says something about the quality of our scope (which is high), Bjorn’s eye, and his calculating of our position.

We’d been away from civilization for a couple of days now, and were in need – or, at least, want – of ice and a few other things. So a few hours after the eclipse ended, I made a trip into Madras. But it was useless. The main highway north to Portland and south to anywhere in California is the town’s main street, and it was locked up. I parked nearby, and found a gas station, but they were out of ice (though not of gas, as some others were). I went back to camp, where we decided to stay another night.

We left late the next morning, hoping to get to Crater Lake National Park that day, and to Redwoods NP the next. But we decided to give up on that plan. First, there were fires near both parks, and the smoke was bad. But, more important, people don’t know how to drive (in my not-so-humble opinion)! The two-lane road was still very packed, but moving, until you came to a section with a passing lane. Where the passing lanes ended, requiring people to merge together again, some would not allow others in, and traffic just stopped. We took hours to go less than twenty miles, and finally turned around, covered the same ground in minutes, and headed east across an empty part of Oregon. We spent the night in Winnemucca, Nevada, and headed toward Colorado the next day. The skies, for the last few days of our trip, were finally smoke-free, or close, and in Rocky Mountain NP, I was able to take some large format photos. We got back late on Sunday night.  

This was a great trip! I’ve been waiting for this since I was a little kid, and today I turned 57. Happy birthday to me!


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#69 StanH

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 09:48 AM

This is the event I had been looking forward to since first reading about it nearly 40 years ago in Sky & Telescope.  Last September I began looking for a place to go.  Many hotels along the path were already booked up.  Fortunately, I found a nice hotel in Hiawatha, Kansas.  Don’t even have to travel out of state. 

 

Leading up to the date was a lot of anticipation.  Alas, there was also a lot of physical pain as on August 8 my back went out on me.  It gradually got worse.  Really puzzled that stretching exercises and walking could not make it feel better.  After mowing the lawn on the 13th and 14th it got much worse.  Went to doctor for it.  Got medications, but these did not seem to help at first.  Missed two days of work that week.  The day in between I went and had to use a cane to get around.  That following day I went in, but it was unbearable\.  Something in the back of my mind was telling me to go to bed.  I did so and curled up in a fetal position on my right side.  It was the only position where there was little or no pain.  Upon getting up later in the day, there was little pain.  I was able to go to work the next day (Friday).  My back hardly bothered me from that point.

 

I recently purchased a rain gauge.  It is more of a professional model and can measure to 0.01”.  On the night of August 5 we had 5.68 inches, on the 9th 1.16 inches, and on the 16th 1.29 inches.  Lesser amounts fell on four other days.  For all the rain this month through the 16th that came to 8.78 inches.  With the weird weather pattern for August with the rain, clouds, and below average temperatures, it did not look promising for the eclipse.  When we left on the 20th for Hiawatha it was a nice day, but the forecast for the 21st was not good.

 

We left Arkansas City around 1:30 p.m. and arrived in Hiawatha around 6 p.m.  It was Mom, Kelly, her husband Mike, and myself.  My brother’s family had to cancel.  Kelly drove the whole way as she always insists on driving even though we went in my van.  Traffic was not a problem though we thought it might be around Topeka.  There were signs out advising of “eclipse traffic” ahead. 

 

We stayed in the Best Western Plus in Hiawatha.  We had been initially told I could set up in the field across (east) of the hotel, but now found out it was city property and was blocked off.  This was probably because the town was all geared up for the event and they called it the “Brown County Blackout” as Hiawatha is in Brown County.  It may be they would use the field as parking depending on the crowd.  A person at the hotel thought there could be as many as 10,000 people coming in.

 

The following morning we found a grassy spot by the entrance to the hotel to set up the telescope and chairs.  I was going to try to keep notes, but with the constantly changing weather did not do so.  It was just before 9 a.m. the telescope was set up.  Initially, the corrector plate fogged over due to being in the cool air of the room and then in the humid air outside.  I was able to wipe most of it off, the rest eventually disappeared.  Perhaps because of this, I forgot to put in the focal reducer on the telescope.  Upon getting the sun in the field I couldn’t get a focus.  I removed the solar filter and turned the telescope to a light pole in the distance to find focus.  I went back to the sun.  As this was f/10 the magnification was 51x.  There was a line of three spots near the center of the sun.  Towards the limb there was a larger spot and a smaller spot.  As time went by the line of three spots was actually much more than that.  Don’t recall the time, but I increased the magnification.  Thought it was the 10mm I brought, but doesn’t feel right.  Anyway, the trailing spot of the line had at least a double core with one larger than the other.  Don’t recall what the others looked like.  I took several photos.

 

By 9:30 a.m. it had clouded over and looked like rain.  I put up the optics in the van, but left the tripod up.  By this time we had struck up conversation with a couple who came from Wichita and set up their chairs near us.  The lady had returned from walking the area where the event was set up.  Mom and I then went for a walk.  I took my umbrella in case it rained.  This was to the north of where we were.  There was already a lot of cars in the fields, though the one immediately east of the hotel was never used.  There were vendors pitching wares.  There were several food trucks.  Mom and I enjoyed the walk, but did not stop to by anything.  We walked for 30 to 45 minutes.  My back did not really bother me.  Though I had my camera, it never occurred to me to take photos of the crowd, vehicles, vendors, and other things set up for the event.  I regret this now.

 

At some point, it did rain.  It rained and rained.  Mom forgot to bring her umbrella so she and Kelly used mine.  The gentleman from Wichita let me borrow one of his as the rest of his family had not yet arrived.  When they did they told of bumper to bumper traffic and having to take back roads, some of the dirt, to get there in time.

 

Around 11:37 a.m. Kelly noticed a rainbow arc in the sky.  I looked up and saw a colorful portion of what would be the 22 degree halo.  At this time the sun was still covered by lower and thicker clouds.

 

First contact was predicted to be at 11:39 a.m.  Alas, it was still too cloudy.  It was not until 11:46 a.m. that the sun was visible and our first glimpse of the partial phase was seen.  With the eclipse glasses I really could not tell there was anything missing out of the sun, but through the telescope it was readily seen.  By 11:53 a.m. thick clouds and more rain came through.  I put the optics back in the van.  We all went back to the hotel room.  By this time Kelly and Mike had checked out of their room and moved their things into Mom’s and my room.  We had our room for two nights so we’d have a room to go back to for restroom or other needs.

 

It was from this point on I failed to keep up my notes on times.  While we were in the room around 12:40 p.m. sunshine suddenly broke through the window.  I hurriedly went to restroom and then down to set the optics back up.  By now, a very good portion of the sun was covered.  It was easy to see with the eclipse glasses.  I got one photo at 12:47 p.m.   However, by 12:49 p.m. the sun was covered again as I did snap a photo of the sky at that time.  Must note that upon getting home and checking my camera found that the times on it were about one minute too fast. 

 

The sky grew darker both due to the sun being covered and the clouds.  More rain could be seen coming so I put the optics back in the van.  As the eclipse was only about 2.5 minutes long and now dealing with clouds I was not going to miss any of it messing with trying to view or take photos through the telescope.

 

At 1:05 p.m. at the predicted start of totality the sky was fairly dark.  I began recording video with my camera.  I had my eye on the sky and glanced at the viewscreen to make sure I was pointing it in the right direction.  It was somewhat eerie with the clouds.  Where there were some breaks in the clouds the sky was a very deep blue.  Some of the breaks were southwest of the sun so we hoped they’d move through in time.

 

At 1:06 p.m. it was still cloudy, but the breaks were getting close.  Shortly thereafter it thinned enough at it could be seen!  Wow!  Dark round hole with a narrow glow around it.  After all these years it was here, now!  I got to see at least see something of the corona.  It quickly covered up.  From then on it was in and out of view.  Just before totality was to end we got and even clearer view.  The corona was so bright!  It was round and larger than the earlier glimpse.  I really was in too awe of the moment to try to see if any structure could bee seen.  A few seconds later totality ended as I could see three of Bailey’s Beads.  It then got very bright very quickly.  I failed to note a diamond ring effect.  I shouted “Glasses!”. 

 

Then it clouded up again though at 1:15 p.m. I got a photo of the “crescent sun” as the clouds made a natural filter.  People were beginning to leave.  We went back to the room due to the clouds.  Just before 2 p.m. we went back outside.  The sky was still cloudy, but thinning.  I set the optics back up and got a photo at 2:01 p.m.  By this time maybe a third of the sun was still covered by the moon.  By 2:09 p.m. the clouds thinned more.  A thunderstorm could be seen off in the distance to the southeast.  Around this time another rainbow halo was seen around the sun.  This one eventually could be traced full circle.  Also, around this time we saw a person in a small motorized glider aircraft pass by.  From 2:20 p.m. onward I watched through the telescope as the moon slowly slid off the sun.  Got more photos.  At 2:32 p.m. I could no longer detect anything of the moon.  Last contact was predicted at 2:33 p.m.  After one more photo to show the moon was no more I put everything in the van.  We then went up to the room.

At various times through the event while the optics were set up several people came to look through and/or take photos with their smart phones at the eyepiece.  Most were the family that was next to us.  Everyone was very excited for the view and to be able to take photos.  However, I thought more people would come by, but most people stayed up north.

 

While in the room we were wondering whether to stay another night or not.  Kelly wanted to get another room for them, but it was over $200!  They were not willing to pay that.  Furthermore, with the four of us in one room I doubt if any of us would get a good night sleep - especially Kelly since she insists on driving.

By 3:15 p.m. all the cars were gone.  There was no signs of any traffic jams on the roads nearby.  Kelly checked online and saw that traffic in Topeka was not bad.  We then made the decision to check out of the room and head on home.  However, we were no more than a few miles west of Hiawatha on Highway 36 that we ran into a traffic jam.  We would move and stop.  I don’t know if we made 20 miles in that first hour.  Kelly was developing a headache and we didn’t want to be driving at night – especially as thunderstorms were expected to develop.  She was able to get online and noticed that Prairie Band Casino still had rooms.  We decided that we’d stay there for the night if we could make it in time.  The traffic eventually got moving better and by the time we got to Holton was moving fairly well due to now two lanes each way, but we were still some 20 miles from Topeka.  We stopped at Holton for bathroom breaks and to catch our breaths. We had no trouble getting back on the road and were able to now get up to the speed limit at times south of Holton.  We arrived at the casino around 6 p.m.  It had taken us about 2.5 hours to make the 50 miles from Hiawatha.  And none too soon as very shortly thereafter a thunderstorm hit which caused power to flicker in the hotel.

 

I was breathing a sigh of relief.  I felt the responsibility of the decision to leave and was burdened by making such a bad decision.  However, it turned out for the better.  We got rooms at the casino and had an enjoyable overnight stay.  The next morning we then got away about 11:20 a.m.  Fortunately, there were no further issues on the trip home.  We made very good time and got to Arkansas City around 3:30 p.m.

 

After getting home and settling in I loaded my images to my computer.  I did not expect much from the video.  Even if it didn’t show well, Kelly had gotten at least one good photo of totality with her smart phone.  As it turns out, the video was a great record of that time and did show totality.  I am so happy to have this as a memento.

 

Oh, one other thing.  The drive for my C-8 apparently worked!  It had been out of commission since the Mercury transit.  Celestron could not help me.  Nor could another person they suggested.  I tried fiddling with it a number of times, but never could get it to work.  For the eclipse, I had put in a battery just in case by some miracle it would work.  I never once had to adjust for failing to track during what few times the sun was out for extended lengths.  Did it magically start working again?

 

Here's the link to my photos and video:  https://www.flickr.c...157685527006923


Edited by StanH, 02 September 2017 - 09:50 AM.

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#70 Larry Mc

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 09:31 AM

August 21st 2017 Eclipse Notes

On the 14 hour drive home back to Pittsburgh, We decided to write down our impressions from yesterday's eclipse that we viewed from our cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of Murphy, North Carolina:

 

At 1:05pm, with the Sun overhead in a clear blue sky, we all rushed out on the cabin deck to see to the official start of the eclipse.
At first nothing was visible using the eclipse glasses and hand-held filters. Only using the solar telescope that we had setup could you see the first bite taken by the Moon.

Then within another couple of minutes, it was plain to see even with the glasses.
After the initial wave of excitement that the solar eclipse had started, (and that we had clear skies), nothing much was noticeable until the Moon had covered more than half of the Sun. Everyone kept taking turns observing the partial phase of the eclipse through the solar telescope and their glasses.

 

By 2pm, the quality of sunlight had changed, with the cabin and surrounding trees taking on a yellowed, late-afternoon look. We also noticed that the air temp had begun to drop.
Within the last 10 minutes leading up to totality, the light and everything took on a brownish tint, like it would look if you were wearing sunglasses. The hot and humid temp had definitely become more comfortable, and the air was no longer calm, with an occasional light breeze being felt. (we recorded a good 11 degree drop on the outdoor mercury thermometer that we were monitoring). Under the trees along the gravel driveway, we could see tiny crescents made by the leaves acting as pinhole projectors.

 

In the last few minutes, with only a thin crescent of the Sun's disk remaining visible, the sky took on a deep blue color, and the forest around us began to darken with the crickets beginning to chirp. Then at the moment of totality, it was as if a giant dimmer switch was being turned down, as within seconds the last remaining bit of sunlight winked out, the sky went a dark grey, and the cabin deck that we were on was plunged into an eerily darkness.

 

In the place where the Sun use to be, there was now what looked like a deep-black disk encircled by a thin, bright-white diffused ring of light with tints of pink.  Extending out in parallel from either side of the disk were what looked like pearly white gossamer wings! The entire object had a 3 dimensional look to it, something I've never seen in any photograph of a total solar eclipse.

(The black disk was the dark side of the Moon, and the ring of light was the solar corona, the pink tint were caused by prominences extending out from the solar disk,
and the gossamer wings being magnetic plumes from the solar corona).

 

During totality, the mountains to the southeast remained brightly illuminated, the horizon various shades of light-red, with further off in the distance white thunderclouds towering over it. Being in the forest, this was our only good view of the horizon. Amid everyone saying how crazy the sky looked, along with numerous "OMG's", a few tree frogs began to croak. But before the nightly frog chorus could really get started, a brilliant flare of light appeared on the western edge of the black disk, it was the 'Diamond Ring' effect.  Within seconds the sky turned blue, the solar corona and plumes disappeared, and daylight began to return.

 

Totality was over!!!  It had been an awesome, incredible site to see, and the fastest 2 minutes & 21 seconds ever!

This is a sketch that I made awhile back for a handout of what the solar corona might look like, and it is a decent representation of what we actually observed.

Also, here's the 'Diamond Ring', made using a StellaCam3 & Canon 55mm CCTV lens mounted on a Skywatcher Star-Adventurer telescope mount.

 

Attached Files


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#71 GOUGER

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 03:45 PM

[YOUTUBE]http://youtu.be/xIMXCQA5Gq8[/YOUTUBE]

http://youtu.be/xIMXCQA5Gq8

Attached Files


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#72 Zebenelgenubi

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 08:37 AM

I had been preparing for the August 21 eclipse for more than a year.  I made arrangements to be 700 meters north of the centerline in Alliance NE.  On the Monday before the eclipse (7 days) I had a vitreous hemorrhage in my left eye and lost sight in that eye.  I thought God does not what me to see this one.  It was the emergency room on Monday morning, opthamologist in the afternoon.  I saw a retina specialist on Tuesday morning.  Had eye surgery on Wednesday.  After an examination on Thursday morning I was cleared to travel.  By the eclipse Monday my vision had returned to 20/20 and I was able to view and photograph the eclipse under the clear skies of western Nebraska.  What a trip.  A week that I will never forget.

 

Attached File  IMG_1772.JPG   37.28KB   1 downloads


Edited by Zebenelgenubi, 04 September 2017 - 08:41 AM.

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#73 Graeme5959

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 02:41 PM

We've been planning this for the last five years, and the hotel room in Casper was booked two years ago.  But it all paid off, we had a really great time.  Coming from the UK, we planned a vacation around the eclipse and so we landed in Denver a week before the big day.  we drove up to Cheyenne and Rapid City before travelling to Casper on Saturday 19th.  A quick visit to Astrocon satisfied my need to look at expensive astro equipment (the only things I bought were tee shirts). The Sunday was a complete dry run in the hotel car park - as a result I increased the save to memory card timings on my DSLR intervalometers.  I think I hadn't allowed enough time for L+RAW images to be saved.  We spent Sunday afternoon driving close to the hotel to see if there were any better vantage points.  I was a bit concerned the town's street lights might affect some of my wide angle shots.  We found a museum next to Casper Events Center on the hillside where they said anyone could use the grounds, so we decided to be there on Monday.  The museum staff were very helpful, they opened the car park at 6am and were still helping people to find spaces even once the eclipse had started.  The atmosphere was great, having the crowd there really added to the occasion.  We had a great view over the town and down the valley.

i set up 4 cameras in total, the results from the more basic cameras are on youtube:

 

https://youtu.be/tx8syWzVPmU

 

higher resolution pictures from the other cameras will require processing time!  The equipment all ran according to plan.

After eclipse day we travelled to Cody, encountering a five mile traffic jam (not so bad by some accounts).  After that, we spent a couple of days each at Yellowstone, Jackson and Salt Lake City.  A great vacation and we really enjoyed seeing that part of the U.S.  I did a little more astrophotography around the Tetons but the highlight was obviously the eclipse.

 

we found everyone really friendly and enthusiastic and we have several email addresses of people we met, for keeping in touch.  My wife & I will probably aim for another eclipse before too long, we haven't decided whether to do Chile in 2019 or maybe wait for 2024.


Edited by Graeme5959, 04 September 2017 - 02:45 PM.

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#74 Phillip Creed

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 10:58 PM

5 a.m.

 

Darkness.

 

Wide awake.

 

I had hoped to get a longer night’s sleep, but once I awoke at 5 a.m. on the morning of August 21, 2017, I knew I couldn’t get back to sleep in our hotel room in Bowling Green, KY.

 

I have been a stargazer since I was a kid, and I was fascinated with solar eclipses.  I didn’t just know 2017 would feature the next CONUS total solar eclipse.  I knew since I was a kid the exact date was August 21, 2017.

 

Five A.M.  The Day Of.  A date always in the future…until now.  For stargazers, this was the morning of our Super Bowl.  This was what athletes must feel like on the morning of, “The Big Game”.  The adrenaline had already started coursing through my veins.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning barreling down the stairs in that instant just before gasping in awe at the presents around the tree.

 

I did a quick appraisal of local weather forecasts and computer weather models for SW Kentucky and northern Tennessee to put me at a little bit of ease.  I skipped coffee during our continental breakfast, as I was already “wired”.

 

My fiancee and I hit the road around 8:45 a.m. CDT after a hearty breakfast.  Our intended site was the Franklin (KY) Drive-In, but we made the mistake of not having reserve tickets.  The line at the gate was already dishearteningly long when our car stopped at 9 a.m.

 

That’s when I remembered fellow Cloudy Nights and Wilderness Center Astronomy Club member Tom Kiehl had mentioned a church outside of nearby Cross Plains, Tennessee.  He mentioned several CN’ers were going to be there.  I called him and when I found out the parking lot was only sparsely occupied, I made a snap decision.

 

“Tom?”
“Yeah?”
“See you in twenty.”

 

Southbound traffic on US-31W and I-65 was still very sparse at 10 a.m. EDT.   Getting off at SR-25 and making the right turn towards Cross Plains revealed the principle reason why.  Many people had already staked out positions in fields, pull-offs, or any place that would allow them to set up.  The town was peppered with tents, tables and people in preparation for the event.

 

After going through downtown, we came across Mt. Carmel Baptist Church around 10 a.m.  I could already see several telescopes set up for H-alpha and Tom’s minivan in the parking lot next to his white-light-filtered Astroscan.  Next to him were Annie and Elaine, two photographers from Michigan who brought a canopy tent.  (I wished I’d thought of that given the infernal Tennessee heat!)  There were others from Ohio that had gathered there, including a couple and a family, both from Cincinnati, and two men in their twenties that came from within miles of where I live outside of Canton, Ohio.

 

We had around two hours to kill, so I set up my Astro-Tech AT115EDT and put in my 8-24mm Baader Zoom (33-100X on my scope) and put a full-aperture Spectrum white-light filter over the objective end.  The sun had an especially prominent sunspot grouping near its center, and to my surprise, the seeing was steady enough to allow extended viewing at 100X (8mm on the zoom).  I went over to Al’s H-alpha setup and got a nice view of the prominences on the western end of the sun.

 

After what seemed like a span of geological time had elapsed, I noticed the moon take its first nibble of the solar disk just prior to noon.  “Ok,” I thought.  “We’re underway.  Ninety minutes to go.”

 

Fifteen minutes later, the first of several cumulus clouds that had been building up in the heat of the day obscured the sun for a few minutes.  I was dreading the possibility of them obscuring the sun during the wrong minutes.  While several remarked about how pretty the clouds and sun appeared through their eclipse glasses, I bitterly said, “I hope those clouds go back to whatever hell they came from”.  (This fear was not unfounded; some locations in Nashville were clouded out during totality while the rest of the sky was mockingly blue).

 

12:45 p.m. CDT rolled around.  The sun was now close to half-obscured, and the biggest cumulus cloud that had covered up the sun for over ten minutes had moved off.  This was the first time we noticed the reduced illumination; the light looked like it was filtered by clouds that were no longer there.

 

1:00 CDT came and went with the sun now close to two-thirds covered.  We could feel a slight but nonetheless welcome respite from the heat.  Even better, I noticed the clouds had stopped building and had started to thin out.  Since cumulus clouds are formed by convective means, it stood to reason the reduction in solar radiation accompanying an eclipse would cause them to dissipate, much like how they typically do towards sunset.

 

By 1:15 CDT, the sun was about 80% covered.  We started noticing our shadows sharpening up dramatically.  The temperature had started to cool off noticeably by this point.  Shadows were sharpening dramatically, and we could see the shadows of individual pine needles and strands of my fiancee’s hair on the pavement.  I pulled the eyepiece out of my telescope and hooked my DSLR for prime-focus imaging.  I put the camera in movie mode and used the Live View screen to focus.

 

The sun was about 90% covered at 1:20 CDT.  I had seen a similar diminution during the May 1994 annular eclipse from northern Ohio.  Temperatures were continuing to drop and I could no longer feel any warmth from the anemic sun.  Still, as a veteran of five partial and one annular eclipse, this was something I’d seen before.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

 

That would turn out to be the last ordinary minute of my life.

 

In contrast to the 1994 eclipse, 90% obscuration was just a waypoint, not a culmination.  Being in a rural setting meant we were surrounded by the sounds of nature, but their serenade had gone strangely quiet.  The blueness of the sky deepened into a metallic hue, while the landscape seemed like it was bathed in a subtle yellowish hue.

 

The eeriness of this can’t be understated.  Between the fading sunlight, unsettling quietness and deepening of the blue sky, it felt like the world was winding down or replaced by a diligently-replicated alien facsimile.  We had no longer come to an eclipse; the eclipse was an awesome, unstoppable force plowing straight towards us, closing in all sides.

 

Two minutes to totality.  The sun was more than 95% obscured and looked as if viewed through very thick sunglasses.  The clouds had all but dissipated and the air temperature had dropped to a downright pleasant level.  The illumination was dimming rapidly, almost in real-time.  Still sunlit, but with the wobbliness of a bruised boxer who knew he wouldn’t last another round.  The solar crescent had become impossibly thin.

 

A plethora of conflicting emotions and thoughts took over in a way difficult to describe.  I felt an instant bond across time with those who’d painstakingly calculated the circumstances of solar eclipses and the ancient ones petrified by the sight of this spectacle.  I had painstakingly researched total eclipses, watched countless YouTube videos, and talked with those who’d witnessed totality.  I had prepared myself for what, when and where to watch for various phenomena, but I learned in the dying sunlight the one true lesson of totality--there are no preparations for what you **FEEL**.  And a total eclipse isn’t just seen, it’s felt.  Right down to the core.

 

With the sun now 99% obscured, the world around us changed at a bewildering pace.  The illumination was disappearing at almost an alarming pace.  We could see the orange “sunset” hues off towards the northeast, 90 degrees away from the orientation of the approaching shadow.  The light was fading rapidly, and the parking lot lights were starting to come on.

 

My internal “freak meter” was already red-lining, but the next thirty seconds buried the needle.  With just fifteen seconds to go, I pulled the filter off the objective, revealing the Diamond Ring Effect and corona on the camera’s Live View screen transitioning to that one moment I’d waited for almost all my life—second contact.  I had finally, finally seen totality.

 

I might live to 100.  I might get hit by a bus tomorrow.  I know this—I will draw my final dying breath never having found the words to describe second contact.

 

Never.

 

Every time I try to concisely describe that moment, it’s like crushing a balloon—squeeze one end, and helplessly watch as the other bulges out.  Every thought carries its own contradiction.  The moment felt like the universe had completely stopped, yet over instantaneously.  I felt like a part of a grand, majestic universe and yet an infinitesimal speck.   My soul felt like it had soared to heaven, yet body-slammed at the same time.  I could hear exclamations of joy, triumph and excitement interlaced among "OH MY GOD!!" and the sounds of onlookers crying.  Totality isn't just a sky event.  It's literally a life-changing experience.

 

It bore some similarity to witnessing the birth of my two daughters.  It’s not the *same* emotion.  But they both draw from the same well—a place so deep, so ingrained in your soul, so hard-wired into the very fabric of your being that words will never suffice.  It simply has to be experienced and FELT.

 

I’ll never forget the appearance of the corona.  There were three prominent “wings” easily visible to the naked-eye.  Many photos shows the corona as a largely uniform glow.  Visually, it was FAR different, appearing like magically-suspended, glowing strands of cotton candy or spider silk.

 

Totality lasted 159 seconds.  It felt like 1.59 seconds.  Third contact greeted us with the second “diamond ring”.  After a second or two, I averted my gaze to prevent eye injury, but I do remember one curious thing about the diamond ring—it didn’t just sparkle.  For lack of a better term, it twinkled.  An impossibly bright, twinkling “star” comprising just a tiny fraction of a percent of the photosphere.

 

After ten seconds had elapsed past third contact, the world quickly brightened.  Everything in the world was slowly returning to normal…except for those who bore witness to totality.  We had seen something so majestic, so much more powerful than ourselves that I was a bit saddened at the sheer number of people who didn’t, couldn’t or refused to get a chance to see totality.

 

It is truly an experience that unites all who witness it, if in nothing more than an overwhelming sense of awe and humility.   The effect it has on onlookers simply doesn't correlate with astronomical expertise.

 

Even now, as I write this two weeks after the event, I feel like an ancient mariner and everyone else who didn't witness totality is a wedding guest.  But evangelizing about totality requires words that will forever elude me.  So I find myself, like so many eclipse veterans, urging others, “you’ve just got to see one.  I can’t explain it.  You have to see it.”

 

Clear Skies,
Phil


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#75 charotarguy

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 07:52 AM

5 a.m.

 

Darkness.

 

Wide awake.

 

I had hoped to get a longer night’s sleep, but once I awoke at 5 a.m. on the morning of August 21, 2017, I knew I couldn’t get back to sleep in our hotel room in Bowling Green, KY.

 

I have been a stargazer since I was a kid, and I was fascinated with solar eclipses.  I didn’t just know 2017 would feature the next CONUS total solar eclipse.  I knew since I was a kid the exact date was August 21, 2017.

 

Five A.M.  The Day Of.  A date always in the future…until now.  For stargazers, this was the morning of our Super Bowl.  This was what athletes must feel like on the morning of, “The Big Game”.  The adrenaline had already started coursing through my veins.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning barreling down the stairs in that instant just before gasping in awe at the presents around the tree.

 

I did a quick appraisal of local weather forecasts and computer weather models for SW Kentucky and northern Tennessee to put me at a little bit of ease.  I skipped coffee during our continental breakfast, as I was already “wired”.

 

My fiancee and I hit the road around 8:45 a.m. CDT after a hearty breakfast.  Our intended site was the Franklin (KY) Drive-In, but we made the mistake of not having reserve tickets.  The line at the gate was already dishearteningly long when our car stopped at 9 a.m.

 

That’s when I remembered fellow Cloudy Nights and Wilderness Center Astronomy Club member Tom Kiehl had mentioned a church outside of nearby Cross Plains, Tennessee.  He mentioned several CN’ers were going to be there.  I called him and when I found out the parking lot was only sparsely occupied, I made a snap decision.

 

“Tom?”
“Yeah?”
“See you in twenty.”

 

Southbound traffic on US-31W and I-65 was still very sparse at 10 a.m. EDT.   Getting off at SR-25 and making the right turn towards Cross Plains revealed the principle reason why.  Many people had already staked out positions in fields, pull-offs, or any place that would allow them to set up.  The town was peppered with tents, tables and people in preparation for the event.

 

After going through downtown, we came across Mt. Carmel Baptist Church around 10 a.m.  I could already see several telescopes set up for H-alpha and Tom’s minivan in the parking lot next to his white-light-filtered Astroscan.  Next to him were Annie and Elaine, two photographers from Michigan who brought a canopy tent.  (I wished I’d thought of that given the infernal Tennessee heat!)  There were others from Ohio that had gathered there, including a couple and a family, both from Cincinnati, and two men in their twenties that came from within miles of where I live outside of Canton, Ohio.

 

We had around two hours to kill, so I set up my Astro-Tech AT115EDT and put in my 8-24mm Baader Zoom (33-100X on my scope) and put a full-aperture Spectrum white-light filter over the objective end.  The sun had an especially prominent sunspot grouping near its center, and to my surprise, the seeing was steady enough to allow extended viewing at 100X (8mm on the zoom).  I went over to Al’s H-alpha setup and got a nice view of the prominences on the western end of the sun.

 

After what seemed like a span of geological time had elapsed, I noticed the moon take its first nibble of the solar disk just prior to noon.  “Ok,” I thought.  “We’re underway.  Ninety minutes to go.”

 

Fifteen minutes later, the first of several cumulus clouds that had been building up in the heat of the day obscured the sun for a few minutes.  I was dreading the possibility of them obscuring the sun during the wrong minutes.  While several remarked about how pretty the clouds and sun appeared through their eclipse glasses, I bitterly said, “I hope those clouds go back to whatever hell they came from”.  (This fear was not unfounded; some locations in Nashville were clouded out during totality while the rest of the sky was mockingly blue).

 

12:45 p.m. CDT rolled around.  The sun was now close to half-obscured, and the biggest cumulus cloud that had covered up the sun for over ten minutes had moved off.  This was the first time we noticed the reduced illumination; the light looked like it was filtered by clouds that were no longer there.

 

1:00 CDT came and went with the sun now close to two-thirds covered.  We could feel a slight but nonetheless welcome respite from the heat.  Even better, I noticed the clouds had stopped building and had started to thin out.  Since cumulus clouds are formed by convective means, it stood to reason the reduction in solar radiation accompanying an eclipse would cause them to dissipate, much like how they typically do towards sunset.

 

By 1:15 CDT, the sun was about 80% covered.  We started noticing our shadows sharpening up dramatically.  The temperature had started to cool off noticeably by this point.  Shadows were sharpening dramatically, and we could see the shadows of individual pine needles and strands of my girlfriend’s hair on the pavement.  I pulled the eyepiece out of my telescope and hooked my DSLR for prime-focus imaging.  I put the camera in movie mode and used the Live View screen to focus.

 

The sun was about 90% covered at 1:20 CDT.  I had seen a similar diminution during the May 1994 annular eclipse from northern Ohio.  Temperatures were continuing to drop and I could no longer feel any warmth from the anemic sun.  Still, as a veteran of five partial and one annular eclipse, this was something I’d seen before.  Nothing out of the ordinary.

 

That would turn out to be the last ordinary minute of my life.

 

In contrast to the 1994 eclipse, 90% obscuration was just a waypoint, not a culmination.  Being in a rural setting meant we were surrounded by the sounds of nature, but their serenade had gone strangely quiet.  The blueness of the sky deepened into a metallic hue, while the landscape seemed like it was bathed in a subtle yellowish hue.

 

The eeriness of this can’t be understated.  Between the fading sunlight, unsettling quietness and deepening of the blue sky, it felt like the world was winding down or replaced by a diligently-replicated alien facsimile.  We had no longer come to an eclipse; the eclipse was an awesome, unstoppable force plowing straight towards us, closing in all sides.

 

Two minutes to totality.  The sun was more than 95% obscured and looked as if viewed through very thick sunglasses.  The clouds had all but dissipated and the air temperature had dropped to a downright pleasant level.  The illumination was dimming rapidly, almost in real-time.  Still sunlit, but with the wobbliness of a bruised boxer who knew he wouldn’t last another round.  The solar crescent had become impossibly thin.

 

A plethora of conflicting emotions and thoughts took over in a way difficult to describe.  I felt an instant bond across time with those who’d painstakingly calculated the circumstances of solar eclipses and the ancient ones petrified by the sight of this spectacle.  I had painstakingly researched total eclipses, watched countless YouTube videos, and talked with those who’d witnessed totality.  I had prepared myself for what, when and where to watch for various phenomena, but leaned In the dying sunlight the one lesson of totality--there are no preparations for what you **FEEL**.  And a total eclipse isn’t just seen, it’s felt.  Right down to the core.

 

With the sun now 99% obscured, the world around us changed at a bewildering pace.  The illumination was disappearing at almost an alarming pace.  We could see the orange “sunset” hues off towards the northeast, 90 degrees away from the orientation of the approaching shadow.  The light was fading rapidly, and the parking lot lights were starting to come on.

 

My internal “freak meter” was already red-lining, but the next thirty seconds buried the needle.  With just fifteen seconds to go, I pulled the filter off the objective, revealing the Diamond Ring Effect and corona on the camera’s Live View screen transitioning to that one moment I’d waited for almost all my life—second contact.  I had finally, finally seen totality.

 

I might live to 100.  I might get hit by a bus tomorrow.  I know this—I will draw my final dying breath never having found the words to describe second contact.

 

Never.

 

Every time I try to concisely describe that moment, it’s like crushing a balloon—squeeze one end, and helplessly watch as the other bulges out.  Every thought carries its own contradiction.  The moment felt like the universe had completely stopped, yet over instantaneously.  I felt like a part of a grand, majestic universe and yet an infinitesimal speck.   My soul felt like it had soared to heaven, yet body-slammed at the same time.  I could hear exclamations of joy, triumph and excitement interlaced among "OH MY GOD!!" and the sounds of onlookers crying.  Totality isn't just a sky event.  It's literally a life-changing experience.

 

It bore some similarity to witnessing the birth of my two daughters.  It’s not the *same* emotion.  But they both draw from the same well—a place so deep, so ingrained in your soul, so hard-wired into the very fabric of your being that words will never suffice.  It simply has to be experienced and FELT.

 

I’ll never forget the appearance of the corona.  There were three prominent “wings” easily visible to the naked-eye.  Many photos shows the corona as a largely uniform glow.  Visually, it was FAR different, appearing like magically-suspended, glowing strands of cotton candy or spider silk.

 

Totality lasted 159 seconds.  It felt like 1.59 seconds.  Third contact greeted us with the second “diamond ring”.  After a second or two, I averted my gaze to prevent eye injury, but I do remember one curious thing about the diamond ring—it didn’t just sparkle.  For lack of a better term, it twinkled.  An impossibly bright, twinkling “star” comprising just a tiny fraction of a percent of the photosphere.

 

After ten seconds had elapsed past third contact, the world quickly brightened.  Everything in the world was slowly returning to normal…except for those who bore witness to totality.  We had seen something so majestic, so much more powerful than ourselves that I was a bit saddened at the sheer number of people who didn’t, couldn’t or refused to get a chance to see totality.

 

It is truly an experience that unites all who witness it, if in nothing more than an overwhelming sense of awe and humility.   The effect it has on onlookers simply doesn't correlate with astronomical expertise.

 

Even now, as I write this two weeks after the event, I feel like an ancient mariner and everyone else who didn't witness totality is a wedding guest.  But evangelizing about totality requires words that will forever elude me.  So I find myself, like so many eclipse veterans, urging others, “you’ve just got to see one.  I can’t explain it.  You have to see it.”

 

Clear Skies,
Phil

Got goosebumps reading this. Awesome experience.


  • TOM KIEHL likes this


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