Solar Eclipse 2017

Almost everyone knows that the last total solar eclipse in the United States occurred in February of 1979. That eclipse, at least a portion of it, was visible from my hometown of St. Louis Missouri.  I was a seventh grader when the moon passed between the Earth and the sun, and my school wouldn’t allow any of us to go outside and view the eclipse – so when I heard about this year’s eclipse I was not going to allow anything to stop me from viewing this one.

Preparing for the eclipse

About two years ago I began researching and planning for the trip.  I learned that it was going to pass through not just where I live in Missouri, but my hometown of St. Louis would have a better view than Joplin.

I booked a hotel room as soon as they became available in St. Louis.   Kimberly secured a vacation day so we could travel to St. Louis.  I was counting down the days for the eclipse – then the unthinkable happened.  My father passed away in February.

After his passing, I took a getaway trip to St. Louis for a week and blew through my eclipse budget.

Although I was bummed when I had t cancel the hotel room in St. Louis for the eclipse, I could still see it in Webb City!

Originally, I wanted to purchase eclipse glasses for myself and my wife.  But with all the stories I was reading about the fake glasses, I didn’t want to risk our eyes on getting the wrong pair (especially since I am legally blind).

Without specially made glasses to view the eclipse, we had to go old school.  Kimberly found a great video on Facebook demonstrating how to turn a cereal box into a safe eclipse viewer.

Sunday morning Kimberly and I sat down at the bar in the kitchen, and made our home-made viewers.  Afterwards, we tested them in the backyard.  That was where I decided my pin hole in the foil was too small, so I tried to make it bigger with my finger.  I did make it bigger, in fact I made it too large.   Kimberly was nice enough and replace the foil on my box with the right sized hole.

The final countdown

The morning of the eclipse had finally arrived.  There were a few clouds in the sky which made me a little worried about the viewing of the eclipse, but as the day progressed the clouds moved out of the ay of the sun (Thank you Lord) and it was a green light for a good viewing form our patio.

At 11:30 I was sitting on the back patio, with my box placed up to my good eye, waiting for 11:42 am – the time the eclipse would start overhead.

For the next hour and a half I squinted into that box at the tiny white dot on the white paper inside, looking to see if I could see the moon passing in front of the sun.

For the longest time, I didn’t think I was seeing anything – but I was.  When I took the box away from my eye for about 5 minutes then returned looking into it, I realized that the small dot was getting smaller.  (It eclipses so slowly that if you constantly stare at the dot you won’t see the subtle changes.)

What did I really notice the most?

As time passed everything outside was starting to look darker to me.  I started to say to Kimberly “I think it is getting darker out here”.  The first few times she didn’t’ say anything in response (she was dealing with a drama in our home).  While I waited for her confirmation I was worrying that the darkness I was seeing was not from the eclipse, but it was a sign that my already damaged vision was getting worse and I was rapidly losing my sight!

Thankfully the drama inside our home had left, allowing Kimberly to observe that it was getting darker outside.  In fact she found the best words to describe the lighting outside form the eclipse “It is like seeing the world through sun shades without having to wear any.”

1:10 pm: the peak of the Eclipse

Where we live the eclipse peaked at 1:10pm.  We did not have a total eclipse of the sun as only about 94% was eclipsed by the moon, but it did do a good job of darkening the world outside.

A few minutes later I decided to come inside and watch the rest on the television from NSA TV.

When it was all over I was glad that I had experienced the eclipse first hand.  The time outside was very moving.  I believe it touched my primitive instincts as during the time the sky was dark at noon, it felt very weird to me.  In fact, I could see hour our ancestors back over a thousand years ago would fear an eclipse and think it was the end of the world.

The price I had to pay for being outside in the direct sunlight for a few hours was that I felt queasy and overheated the rest of the day.  I had forgotten that since my stoke, I am more sensitive to heat from the sun.  I often feel , after being out I the sun for any long duration, I must deal with the effects of heat exhaustion.  Unfortunately, the afternoon after the eclipse was no exception – the eclipse knocked me out of a ribbon cutting I had wanted to attend.

The next total eclipse in the United states will be April 8, 2024.  I am excited about seeing that one in person – even if it means another battle between myself and the heat – some things are just worth it!