I'm in Oregon, having flown out on Saturday, and this morning saw a total solar eclipse -- my first. We had eclipse glasses, clear skies over my in-laws' street, and a good social environment, with neighbors out and about but no overwhelming crowds. heisenbug
was doing camera fussing, so I got to experience almost all of it pretty independently.
At first it was just a tiny bite removed from the sun, at about 1:00 or 1:30, and my stated hypothesis involved a tiny, nibbly sky-mouse. Sky-mouse was hungry though, and the bite kept growing. I couldn't have told without the eclipse glasses, though, for quite a while; everything was bright and hot, like before. After a while I made a pinhole device with foil, a roll of tape and a safety pin, just to make sure science was still working, but there wasn't much in the way of being awestruck. Yet.
Half an hour later, the half-gone sun was bright, but not so hot and burning: maybe what it would be like if the planet were a bit further away, but not as far as Mars. I started to spot the phenomenon I'd most been looking forward to: crescent dapples on the sidewalk, as leaves on the trees formed natural pinholes. I took photos, led people to the best trees creating the effect, and, prosaically, ran to the bathroom as totality approached.
Back out on the street with a few minutes left to go, it was definitely less bright and less hot. It got rather cool, in fact, and the sunlight quickly got weak and strained. Through the eclipse glasses, the crescent was thin, and getting shorter rapidly. I heard someone say "this has a name, this flickering", and yeah, without the glasses there were ripples in the light of the sun. I could see the street flicker and it was really, truly, eerie. If one thing could have made me think the sun was going out for good, it would have been those flickers.
I put my glasses back on, and there came a moment when the tiny orange crescent winked out. "That's it, it's gone" people said, and I took off the glasses and there was a giant hole hanging in the sky. It was stunning, just as stunning as they say. The corona was HUGE, forming a giant trapezoid around the sun instead of the thin ring I might have been expecting, and I never remembered to look around the horizon for sunset colors everywhere because HOLE IN THE SKY OH MY GOD. I'll never see anything blacker than that. The world hadn't really ended, but it had stopped. It was all on pause.
After some time I managed to hit send on the "OMG totality" email draft I had prepared earlier to send to norwoodbridge
. And heisenbug
came running over from his tripod, and I hastily said "Kissing under an eclipse is good luck" and we had a quick smooch. But the sky, the sky, hole in the sky oh my god.
People started counting down to the end of totality. I stared to the very end, and had a momentary flash of the "diamond ring effect" as light burst through at one searing point. I quickly got my glasses back on and the effect was gone, replaced by a tiny crescent (through glasses) and the eerie flickers lighting the street again for thirty seconds or so (around the glasses).
The rest was a rewind, as the sun gained brightness again and, later, its heat. We showed more people the crescent-dotted shadows, which are quite extreme right after totality, and waited, and the world got back to normal.
This event had a fierceness that a lunar eclipse can't match. For one thing, the heat of the sun being cut off is more important than the light. For another, with this there's something blocking the eclipsed body; it's not a mere shadow, something is physically interposed and in the way. For a third, those flickers, like a light bulb about to burn out. For a fourth, day turning to night, which is far more affecting than night turning to slightly darker night. I didn't have any deep spiritual experiences or get totally incoherent, but I was
awestruck, and certainly don't regret the plane ticket it took to get here.