Why I Recommend Seeing a Total Eclipse

Right off the bat, I have to thank my fiance, Phil, for instigating our trip to the path of totality.  I am not a big astronomy geek, and wasn’t sure if this was going to be worth it, but Phil always commits to things 100% (a positive for me in so, so many ways) so he wasn’t going to settle for the 93% coverage that Seattle received.

We found a Single A baseball game in Salem, OR whose promo for the game was to be the “First Professional Sporting Event to be Delayed by a Solar Eclipse.”  NASA scientists had flown in from DC for the event and were presenting facts and providing solar telescopes from which to view the sun throughout the solar event.  The game was delayed after the first inning for a final countdown of sorts.  NASA astronomers were explaining, to adults and kids alike, when it would be safe to take the glasses off (only at complete totality).  Around 98%, the scientists issued radio silence and we all marveled in unison about a freaking total solar eclipse!

Our nation is going through emotional (and physical) turmoil we’ve never experienced (in my lifetime and it seems at least a couple decades before).  It was truly amazing to witness the universe step in and unite us all, for at least 2 minutes and 40 seconds.  There is nothing as cool as seeing millions of people (on the internet) and being with thousands of people (at the ballpark) stand in AWE together.

One of the best parts of the event was seeing people whose entire lives revolved around the study of the sun and space get to witness the experience of a lifetime (or at least of every 40 years!).  They were so excited, and that enthusiasm spread!  There was a home run hit in the first inning and I saw a kid bring it to a NASA scientist to be signed instead of a baseball player, which I thought was awesome!

Again, I have to stress that Phil was right about the need to commit 100%.  Sure, it got noticeably darker and cooler around 90%, but the sun is insanely powerful, and the place was still rather bright even at 95% coverage!

There was one unfortunate outcome of the hubbub made about the eclipse.  The amount of people traveling towards the path of totality was hyped to the point that some people who were considering traveling ended up canceling at the last minute for fear that the traffic would be unbearable (a fear of mine, I admit).  However, a lot of businesses and restaurants in small towns in the path of totality ended up over-preparing and, consequently, wasted a lot of food and merchandise. I feel a little bad for those owners who were expecting thousands of more visitors (1 million expected in certain locations).

A fun article about national traffic across the path of totality can be seen here.  Fun to imagine people stopping on the highway (safely!) and witnessing this spectacle.  There is another eclipse with a path of totality across the mideast of the US in 2024 — if you find a convenient way to be near that path, it’s worth seeing.

Jason Kottke (kottke.org) has a great piece here, quoting Annie Dillard:

“A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.”

As a side note, I follow Kottke’s blog (which is not solely about astronomy or science) and he has a few great blog posts about the eclipse — that was also where I read (three months in advance) that you needed special glasses to view it, so I beat the rush and started handing out my extras!

On one final note — I almost made a previous post about why I wouldn’t personally be taking any photos of the eclipse…and although I did end up taking a couple (mainly because I wanted to see how a picture taken through solar eclipse glasses would turn out)…the pictures below are evidence as to why it’s better to live in the moment and leave the photography to pros.

My version:

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Photo by Richard Sparkman

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Other amazing photos and videos found here: http://kottke.org/17/08/the-best-photos-and-videos-of-the-2017-solar-eclipse

 

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