By Christine Ord
My husband David and I went to the US this August to experience our first total solar eclipse.
I am pleased to report that August 21st this year, the day of the total solar eclipse across the United States, dawned beautiful, hot and clear in Hendersonville, Tennessee. This is where David and I were booked into a hotel under the path of totality. In the days prior to the eclipse the weather reports were still reporting partially cloudy skies for the big day, so we were not certain as to whether we would be lucky and have a good view. The news reports were also advising that the roads were expected to be very busy as people got into their preferred locations for the eclipse. Based on these road forecasts, we decided to stay close to the hotel and not join one of the big events being advertised in nearby towns.
There was a lake and small park area just across the road from the hotel from where we decided to watch the eclipse, under a covered picnic area. Several people had set up telescopes and cameras with filters near the hotel. As the time approached for first contact (moon just beginning to cover the sun) a number of office workers came to the picnic area with lunch and drinks. They turned out to be the local council workers, plus the mayor who came out to watch the eclipse. They had such appropriate delicacies as ‘moon’pie, ’orbit’ gum, ‘milky way’ bars and ‘Sun’ gold drinks (as well as enormous sandwiches which didn’t have an event related name). We were invited to join them.
As the time drew near for the total eclipse, we had been watching the progress of the moon over the sun with the eclipse glasses over a period of about 1.5 hours. The weather held and we had a great clear view of the event for the 2 minutes 40 seconds of totality. Here are a few of our observations :-
- It was surprising how much light the sun produced even when the majority of its surface was covered by the moon. If you didn’t have the eclipse glasses you wouldn’t know there was anything going on until the sun was completely covered.
- As I was wearing glasses until the sun’s disc was covered, I didn’t see the first diamond ring effect. You really need to be watching naked eye at the last moment to catch it, as the glasses cut out too much light.
- We didn’t see the Bailey’s beads effect, although one of the other observers who had seen several eclipses, said that they were not always in evidence as they can be affected by the relative positions of the sun, moon, and earth.
- Totality lasted 2 minutes and 40 seconds and we could clearly see, naked eye, the white corona, which seemed to me to be wider round the equatorial plane of the sun and we could clearly see the red chromosphere.
- The temperature dropped considerably during totality from the scorching heat of earlier and it was pleasant to stand out of the shade. Estimates given later on TV for the drop in temperature were between 8 and 10 degrees.
- The sky didn’t go dark during totality. It was more a twilight effect, that time after sunset but before it really goes dark. It was however dark enough to see Venus and some of the bright stars, which was great.
- There weren’t many animals in the area so we couldn’t judge the effect on them very well. However, just as the sun was covered, the cicadas in the nearby trees started ‘singing’ and continued until totality was over and the sun was hot again. Some geese who were in the pond nearby got out of the water, but we don’t know whether they would have done that anyway.
The time of totality passed quickly and we clearly saw the diamond ring as the moon continued its journey and the sun gradually came back into view. It didn’t take long to get back to daylight and high temperatures, even though the sun was still partially covered for the next hour and a half.
We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were not disappointed. As with most observations of astronomical events, you are left wanting more. Perhaps next time a longer totality, a glimpse of bailey’s beads, a pair of binoculars to see some coronal detail ……
As we didn’t have a special filter for David’s camera he could only take pictures, of the Sun once it had been totally covered. He used a Canon EOS 80D camera. We have included a few that he took of the event below. Here are a few of the more unusual ones that other people took to take a look at.
This one was taken from a plane as the shadow of the moon fell on the ocean before making landfall.
The spaceweather website has a gallery of images taken around the world during the eclipse
Picture taken from a weather balloon showing the shadow of the moon across the earth.
This is NASA’s best collection, which includes some of the ISS passing in front of the Sun during the eclipse and some taken from the ISS itself.
Diamond ring effect as moon begins to move Fellow observers