I know I haven’t shut up about the eclipse for the last 8 months (and I’m not planning to anytime soon) but I wanted to just explain what it meant to me.
Seeing an eclipse has been on my bucket list since I was a child. But there’s a particular pivotal moment that cemented my burning desire to see an eclipse. The eclipse of 1999.
It was in August too, and the closest place to Anzio I would’ve been able to see it was Munich. I know that none of my family could take me (it’s the busiest week of the year for us) but I did suggest I would hop on a sleeper train to Germany, see the eclipse and jump back on a train to Italy.
My family, reasonably, did not think that was doable for a 14 year old with no mobile phone and limited knowledge of German. So I resigned myself to see a partial eclipse. My late grandpa even got me a piece of ‘welder glass’ so that I could watch it safely, and told me that I would get to see one, one day.
The eclipse was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I cried as soon as it achieved totality. I was there on a grassy patch breath taken, crying, laughing and hardly able to believe my eyes.
In every direction it looked like the sun had set. The temperature dropped. Cicadas and crickets started their evening noise.
The way to the eclipse was not smooth. It was planned 9 months ago with just statistical data of potential regions and a close look at our small budget (it’s a wedding year, y’all!). It took over 25 hours to drive from Washington DC to Nashville and back again. My back ached, my legs were stiff, but it was worth it.
It was worth all the stress of the clouds which showed up at 12:30 and left at 2. Luckily we had a meteorologist on our Eclipse Hunting team, and 10 minutes before totality we jumped in the car and floored it towards a sunny patch, refusing to let the weather defeat us on our quest.
Then, while we were there waiting in the last few minutes, a cloud menacingly approached. But the moon was faster. In an instant we were in darkness. The corona was splendidly visible. It lasted for 30 seconds. 30 seconds of pure bliss where I lay mind-blown and alternating between crying and laughing. This was the closest I’d ever had to experiencing Stendhal’s syndrome.
Then that pesky cloud took the occluded Sun away. We roared in victory, and looked around at the darkness. Everywhere we looked was tinted by dusk red colours.
The cloud passing over the corona made the experience even more special – jubilant and triumphant – we beat the clouds, in the final few seconds we got to a sunny patch and saw totality, the clouds could no longer take away our joy.
In reality, we are lucky. Currently our moon appears to be roughly the same size of the Sun in the sky. In the past it used to be closer to us so it completely covered the sun and there wouldn’t have been a corona.
In future, as the moon moves away, we will only have annular eclipses. It’s already possible to see annular eclipses. When the moon is at the furthest point in its orbit around the Earth, it doesn’t cover the Sun entirely. These eclipses generate the famous “ring of fire“!
We’re in a (geologically) small slice of history that is just the right time to see full total eclipses. If you have the chance to see one. Trust me. You don’t want to miss it.