Total Solar Eclipse

2017-08-21 – wOw

That’s my invented emoticon for today’s eclipse. The w’s symbolize the suns corona. The O is the shadow of the moon darkening the sun.

wOw

We saw the eclipse at Riverton, WY. When I first heard that the eclipse was going to coincide with our vacation trip to Montana, I was excited. I’ve seen partial eclipses before, but never a total eclipse. I hoped we could make a little detour to see it. And we did.

I want to get the details down before I forget them.

The moon began to eat into the sun around a quarter after 10, this morning. We had eclipse glasses and could look directly at the sun, but only through the glasses. The bite out of the sun grew over the next hour. It was a bright sunshiny day, but over that hour the light gradually dimmed.  Once the moon blocked around half the sun, the temperature began to drop and the wind began to blow.

The startling thing was how sudden things changed when the eclipse went from 99% to 100%. The sky became dark, with a bright horizon in all directions (not just in the West as happens at sunset). If you were wearing the ultra-dark eclipse glasses, as we were, suddenly you could see nothing.

When you took the glasses off and looked up, there was a deep black disc of the moon surrounded by an ethereal light, which was the corona of the sun. We also got to see the planet Venus, off to the west of the sun/moon.

This light is not superbright, like the sun itself, which I learned at the end of totality when a tiny sliver of the sun reappeared and again lit up the sky and the earth.

wOw

* * *

I am tired now. It was quite a day.

Kit had found us a “parking spot” in Riverton for $30 where we would see the eclipse. We had no idea what to expect. Saturday we had only made it as far as Newton, IA. We were hearing that there were no places to stay near the path of totality. Even Newton was book, since the path went through the southern part of Iowa. So Kit called about our parking spot to ask if we could come Sunday and sleep in the car. The answer was yes.

The place was in the outskirts of Riverton. The “parking spot” was not what us city folks would call a parking spot. It was a large field of scrub grass and tiny cactus on the side of a hill. The owner of the property had rented out one side for campers with tents. The other side was for people who came only with their cars. That was the “parking spot.”

It was a low-key festival. People slept the night under the stars—us included. Then, in the morning, people set up whatever they brought, from telescopes to lawn chairs. The owner of the property had a few items to sell. We took a walk and met a young man setting up a telescope he bought just for the purpose of videotaping the even.

Then we met two couples who had driven up from Colorado. They parked next to us and we struck up a great friendship and had lots of laughs as the sky darkened. When totality was over, our new friends brought out a bottle of champagne and we toasted to the next eclipse.

Hopefully, we’ll stay in touch.

* * *

I’ve seen eclipses on TV, so the image of the sun being blocked by the moon was not new to me, but I didn’t realize how much more there was to a solar eclipse.

What a day!

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