Sunday, August 27, 2017

See you on the dark side of the moon! (Solar eclipse 2017 in South Carolina)

Total solar eclipse in Greenville, SC, c/o NASA

Millions of people are forecast to flock to the very narrow swath -- 70 miles wide -- that today's solar eclipse will travel across the US.

"This will be like Woodstock 200 times over -- but across the whole country," said Alex Young, solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Federal Highway Administration is calling this a "planned special event for which there has been no recent precedent in the United States."

The moon, which many of us often take for granted, will quite literally have its day in the spotlight. Science geeks have been counting down to the millisecond for today's eclipse.

Professional photographers and amateur astronomers have bought and tested special solar filters for their cameras.

Even the surfers at have gone along the Oregon coast and cleaned the lenses off their surf cameras so they can catch the first glimpses of the moon's shadow reaching the western shore.

Now, the day is here.

"The hair on the back of your neck is going to stand up, and you are going to feel different things as the eclipse reaches totality. It's been described as peaceful, spiritual, exhilarating, shocking," said Brian Carlstrom, deputy associate director of the National Park Service Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate.

If you don't believe, stop, watch and listen.

That was the CNN alert on Monday, August 21, 2017. It delighted me to read it that morning.

The traffic was indeed as bad as predicted, and still, I traveled to South Carolina to see the total solar eclipse.

One car, two people, two dogs. Passing through six states and then back again in three days.

Causing trouble!
I didn't realize this trip would bring me back through the Shenandoah Valley, but I am certainly glad it did.

I don't have the kind of camera that could capture totality, so I didn't even try. I just looked through some binoculars and soaked up the beauty.

Image c/o NASA

I was grateful to be in W. C. Nettles Park in Pendleton, SC.

I made a pinhole through a piece of scrap paper and it made a half-sun on my palm. Look, even the shadows through the trees make half-suns:

I had never experienced anything like the sick, thin, half light of the moon covering the sun. It was uncanny, like someone hit a dimmer switch on the sun.

#NoFilter. This is maybe half the strength of the South Carolina sun in the middle of the day.

The total eclipse approached and owls hooted. I was mesmerized by the corona. It was a 360 degree sunset all around us but dark overhead. Street lights came on at 2:40 pm. Some biological instinct took over and I refused to believe it was the middle of the day or that the sun would immediately return. Logically, I knew what to expect, but while it happened I couldn't quite believe it.

But I do believe it, because I was there.

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