Eclipse 2017: Wildly Beautiful!

Totality from Hodges, SC today, quickly processed result to show the solar corona. The bright star at left is Regulus. Credit: Damian Peach

I can’t think of a better way to describe it. I sure hope you got to see today’s eclipse. The morning began with heavy fog in W. Nebraska with a forecast for partly sunny skies later in the morning. After studying satellite cloud photos, a move further to the west to near the Wyoming border seemed a good move. We headed for Alliance, Nebraska and started looking for a place to pull off the road about 8 miles south. Totality would last about 2 1/2 minutes there.

We got a lucky break, when we spotted a large farm that offered parking for a modest fee in their zillion-acre field. We happily paid to get a quiet, beautiful place and pulled our cars up to neatly arranged hay bales and parked under virtually cloudless, blue skies.
Sunny, a bear-coat Shar pei, views his namesake in a pair of eclipse glasses from near Alliance, Nebraska during Monday’s total solar eclipse. Credit: Bob King

The first half of the eclipse was easy and fun to watch with little change in daylight. Nice to see the moon bite into and cover the many sunspots! My brother Dan played eclipse-and-darkness-related tunes while serving up Bloody Marys. To my surprise, the change in daylight was obvious as early as 80% partial eclipse. This was even more pronounced at 90%, but along with the falling temperatures, masses of clouds were quickly forming near the sun at the top of the sky. The clouds were even thick enough for a couple minutes to serve as natural eclipse filters for viewing the delicate crescent phase. The approaching moon’s shadow was very clearly seen – grey and ashen – creeping out of the northwest like a dark wind.

But who needs clouds! We started to get concerned that they’d snuff out totality. And while the total part began with a few clouds still teasing the solar disk, the sun broke out into a huge clearing only seconds after Baily’s Beads appeared. I can’t tell you how happy that makes you feel after you’ve invested so much time and energy into seeing an eclipse.
The first sight of the black moon and corona against the deep blue sky made me shout out loud. I seem to remember running, then lying on the ground, feeling vibes of pure joy. The sight was wildly beautiful.
Long, stretchy streamers extended to either side of the sun making it look like a three-tailed comet. In contrast, neatly aligned magnetic brushes crowned the north and south polar regions. Regulus was easy to see in 10×50 binoculars just outside or maybe even a little inside the corona with Venus brilliant to the west plainly visible with the naked eye. I didn’t see Mars and only briefly looked for the winter stars, but clouds in that direction blocked their view. Prominences along the northern and southern limbs popped into view about mid-totality.
The temperature dropped about 10° and a full chorus of crickets chirped the duration of totality. Two and a half minutes of crazy joy later, the sun returned shockingly fast. Like taking the lid off the pot. There was also a sense of the moon being “on fire” with Baily’s Beads just before and after totality.
Not 5 minutes later, traffic began to fill the nearby highway. What’s the hurry? We let it soak in.
There were hugs all around between family members and friends. Other impressions from our crew:
Linda: “Cold, dark and a little scary.
Roy: “Like a sci-fi movie experience. A scene from the end of the world.”
Dan: “Speechless. Exciting!”
Katie: “Apocalyptic and cathartic. The suspense was high followed by a happy feeling.”
Sally: “Felt elated when the clouds cleared on time. Emotional.”
** Because of an error on my part, I have no closeup photos of the corona. Most of mine were wide-angle, but I don’t have the ability to download and post anything except my one crazy image 🙂

11 Responses

  1. Wayne

    Was amazed to read that you ended up in Alliance, Nebraska – since that was the same place we ended up (driving up from Northern Colorado at 2am Monday)! The fog was so bad when we arrived in Sidney, Nebraska, that we ended up taking a 45-minute nap to wait for it to at least start to burn off. We had a feeling it was going to be nice and clear for the eclipse – and it was! It was simply STUNNING. Your description matched our experience almost exactly except it seemed to us that we had the “Diamond Ring” effect before and after the eclipse – especially after! So… we have to know: did you end up at the Wells Ranch by any chance? When you said 8 miles South of Alliance… It also felt like that might have been where you were, since the quiet around matched our experience along with the crickets during the eclipse itself. Now we’re planning on seeing the 2024 one if at all possible! Cheers! 😀

    1. astrobob

      Hi Wayne,
      I should have asked the name of the ranch. It turns out we were a little further south of Alliance (about 15 miles) and maybe 4 miles north of Angora. The ranch/farm was on the west side of the road. Thanks for sharing your eclipse observations!

  2. Bill Eyler

    I saw it from Beatrice Nebraska. Mostly cloudy but they parted somewhat to see totality. Was in the Wal-Mart parking lot. A lot of people hollering and cheering. Can not describe the feeling. One of nature’s finest sights. Well worth the long drive.

  3. Troy

    Bob I have to admire how you do whatever it takes to avoid the scourge of clouds. I watched the 80% partial eclipse from Michigan. The first half was clear as a bell, the second half was plagued by intermittent clouds. I consider myself lucky though, if the eclipse had occurred on Tuesday it would have been a complete washout due to rain.

    1. astrobob

      Glad you saw it, Troy. Did you notice any change in daylight at 80%. That’s when we started to notice it.

      1. Troy

        80% did create a noticeable change in daylight and a welcome dip in temperatures, though amazingly might have been missed if you were casually looking outside.
        80% is NOT enough to notice patterns in the shadows of trees though.

        1. astrobob

          You’re right, Troy. I saw it too and was a little surprised. I’d heard 90% but we were out in sunlight all morning standing in one location, so it was actually obvious.

  4. Matt

    I was planning on going to St. Joseph, MO, but wasn’t really liking the weather there, so I decided to plow east and be somewhere in the middle so I could move. I ended up sleeping in the car on a gravel road south of Boonsville, and while it was clear all morning, haze started to roll in. I called someone that went to Carbondale, and decided to head east about 11:30 to Jefferson City, going south on 63 from columbia, shadows started getting sharper and decided to pull off on an access road on the side and set up. I think there was some slight haze, since all my pictures seem to be a little soft focus. I got a bunch of crescent pics and when I went to grab the solar filter off my lens, I glanced up saw the bailey beads with my naked eye (the sun had just changed from yellow to white, and it looked like a bright star or Venus). I got about 15 pics of totality and some with some solar flares. My equipment is a modest Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n with a Celestron C90 and Thousand Oaks Solar filter

  5. Sandra Hall

    We saw it in Grand Island, NE. Perfect sky for it. One phenomenon we noticed was how quiet everyone got as the sun disappeared. People were talking in hushed tones, if at all. At totality there were lots of shouts and someone in the town shot off boomers.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Sandra,

      So glad you saw it! I wondered about whether it would be clear in Grand Island. Thanks for the report.

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