Sometimes 2% IS a Big Deal
Winston Salem, North Carolina
August 22, 2017 6:41pm CST
Those of you who regularly read my mental musings here on MyLot will recall that I had a bit of fun at my husband’s expense in a post last week. I accused him of being an over achiever just because he made the effort to plan to travel to the path of totality for yesterday’s eclipse, even though we expected a 98% eclipse in our own back yard. Turns out he actually had a point. Sometimes 2% CAN make a huge difference. Yesterday afternoon temperatures were scaldingly hot on the sunny flagstone patio beside our rental cottage when my husband reminded us that it was time for the eclipse to begin. I dutifully picked up my ISO certified eclipse glasses and left my shady spot on the porch to go take a peek at the sun. Sure enough, a tiny little nibble was missing from the edge of the sun. Big deal. I retreated back to the shade. Over the next hour or so I occasionally ventured back out to take another peek, but each time the oppressive heat drove me back to the relative cool of the shade. Then suddenly it didn’t feel quite so oppressively hot, and the world around us looked like we were in a night scene in an old movie; where they’ve used a filter to make a daytime shot look like night (usually with limited success). Since it was no longer quite so uncomfortable I stayed glancing up through the glasses regularly to observe the progress of the moon across the face of the sun. With every glance the bright crescent visible through the glasses became smaller and smaller. Fifteen minutes before the predicted time of totality one of the girls started regularly announcing how much time was left. The crescent continued to shrink until it was the merest sliver. A thin cloud scurried across the scene dimming the light even more, but that remaining sliver lingered. And lingered. Eventually the countdown reached 30 seconds. At this point the eclipse had reached 99%, and a small sliver of the sun was still visible. In the next 30 seconds we saw the diamond ring effect as the sliver shrank to a small point, and when we glanced at the white towel spread on the ground (without looking through the glasses of course) we saw the writhing shadows known as “shadow snakes” and then suddenly we could no longer see anything through our eclipse glasses and the world around us had grown dim. We put down the glasses knowing that we had a scant 2 minutes 38.4 seconds until the second diamond ring effect would demand that we go back to observing through our eclipse glasses. With mountains behind us and to each side we could only see the spectacular colours of sunset to the southwest, even though they would have been visible in every direction had our view not been obstructed. Around us the world had grown night time dark. The temperature dropped even further; the woods were quiet; and at some point the solar lights around the patio had turned themselves on. Above us was a black circle surrounded by a swirling halo of white light and a handful of stars were visible scattered across the sky above us. The scene was incredible and the five of us all sat in awe of the tremendous event occurring right over our heads. Someones phone alarm announced that 2.5 minutes had passed and it was time to put our eclipse glasses between us and the sun once again, just as the second diamond ring of light banished the night time darkness. We watched as the sliver lengthened and once again formed a crescent that continued to grow. It was a memorable event, and even the skeptics among us (that would be me) are convinced that making plans to be in the path of totality when another total eclipse makes it’s way across the continent, is entirely worth the time and effort. My husband took the photo that I’ve attached to this post, this is essentially what we saw with uncovered eyes during the totality...but it doesn’t really do the scene justice since most of the stars aren’t showing up, and the sunset colours on the horizon didn’t show up in the frame at all.
16 people like this
• United States
Well I have to give that man much credit, your husband!! Look at that photo and your writing about it Joanne, I could picture this and myself there when you were describing the shadow snakes on the ground and the stars oh my this was fantastic!! Thanks so very much for sharing this wow moment with us here.
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
Thanks, Tiara! It was very much a wow moment for all of us! And luckily for us the 2024 eclipse will be passing over areas where we either have family (the area I grew up) or have family planning to move in the next year or so.
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
@just4him he had his SLR camera setup on a tripod with a homemade filter (the same stuff the official glasses were made of) and set his camera to an ongoing series of photos. We have a telescope but left it at home since the thing is huge.
• United States
That's awesome you and your family got to experience that. I bet you're glad your husband insisted on traveling so you could experience the total eclipse! Thank you for sharing your experience -- I felt like I was right there with you experiencing it. Maybe next time. My partner and I are talking about visiting friends in Ohio in 7 years the next time there is a solar eclipse, as we won't see it here in California but they will be in the path of totality.