Experiencing Totality

I had never seen even a partial solar eclipse. My first experience with solar viewing glasses was just over 4 years ago when I got to see Venus transit the sun. This August was a great opportunity for folks in the US to see an eclipse — partial or total. Living in Michigan now, I was not that far from the path of totality, and I had some grad school friends traveling to Kentucky. We all converged in Lexington by Sunday night and hit the road by 6am Monday morning.

As an aside, the whole weekend was pretty special for me. I started it off with my first 10k-distance open water swim on Sunday morning, just as the sun was beginning to rise in Eastern Michigan. Ok, so Michigan is pretty far west in EST so sunrise was not that early (~6:30am). After the grueling race, I was glad to sit back for the 5+ hour drive to Lexington.

swimtothemoon2017-ANIMATION

Our drive down to Carriage House Vineyards in Auburn, KY on Monday morning went very smoothly. We set up our blankets on the lawn that the Vineyard kindly opened up for the event. As the eclipse began we got our our prepared “equipment.”

Some solar-viewing glasses…

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Despite not being able to see anything except the sun with the glasses on I manage to take a decent selfie.

A last-minute pinhole projector constructed from an old shoebox…

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Outside view of the projector. The aluminum foil has a tiny hole at the front of the shoebox.

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View of the screen in the back of the shoebox as the eclipse begins. The sun appears nearly full here.

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Not long after, we see the partial eclipse, the projection appears as a crescent.

And even a colander!

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I even tried to take a snapshot of the partial eclipse from my cellphone camera through the eclipse glasses. Here is my best try:

partial_phonecamera.jpg

There are plenty of professional photos all over the web now that do a pretty good job of capturing totality, but I’ve got to say that experiencing it in person was a truly amazing and weird and surreal experience. And now I have this great direct analogy to make when explaining coronagraphs! I’m so thankful that the moon is the perfect angular size that we can see these dazzling eclipses every so often, and I’m ready to catch the next nearby one in 2024!

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Totality through a cell phone camera.

 

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