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Here Comes The Occluded Sun: Watching The 2024 Solar Eclipse

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Total Solar Eclipse (2024), dir. The Solar System

For all that’s been written about total solar eclipses, there were aspects I was unprepared for.

Monday’s eclipse was striking and beautiful, but it was surprisingly unsettling.

During the first 50 minutes, as the moon increased its occlusion, there was barely any perceptible change in temperature or coloring.

Viewing the sun through ISO-approved viewers, the sun appeared to be about 90% covered before the coloring of our surroundings appeared somewhat washed-out, and felt cooler.

It was only in final couple minutes of partiality when the temperature dramatically plunged, and suddenly we were in night.

Our location in Potsdam was bright, with wispy clouds (to my untrained eye, stratus clouds).

According to Accuweather, the cloud coverage matched Plattsburgh’s 26%, and it did not hamper our view of totality. As the sun disappeared from our viewers, we removed them to see the phenomenon with our naked eyes.

I was most surprised by the coloring.

The commonly published photos and videos are taken with sophisticated cameras fitted with filters which capture the light patterns but distort the color.

To the naked eye in real time, the corona was as white as a full moon on a clear night, far from the orange-yellow often depicted. The atmosphere-less moon was black as an eye’s pupil, but flat with no reflection or features.

The sky around the corona was a deep indigo.

It was that subtle difference in coloring between the flattest, blackest moon and the sky’s depth of color, combined with the fine hairlike but still and straight rays of the sun, which I’ve never seen captured.

The slight degrees of difference in colors and detail are what causes our unease in a way that our more common monochromatic records cannot replicate. Humankind evolved to distrust the slight variations, and no analysis can take that away.

Then, after a few disorienting minutes, the dark, unnerving spell shifts, as a rippled white glow appears along the edge of the moon’s blackness. The sky’s indigo lightens only slightly, but just enough to draw a greater contrast between moon and sky, and the threat seems to lessen.

A sudden bright glow appears before a bright white diamond ring is presented. Then the process reverses itself as color and warmth return to our world.

There is still an hour of lessening occlusion to come, but the crowd packs up as if the final credits are rolling on a movie.

It’s a testament to the emotional power of an eclipse that so much effort is made to record, predict, and view it.

We can know its arrival to the minute, but there is still excitement, and even panic in some circles. Some speak as if it’s a miracle we don’t have swaths of blinded pets and livestock across our country this morning.)

We were lucky to see it from SUNY-Potsdam, a remarkably friendly and relaxed atmosphere with games, used book sellers, and a group of singing girls.

As we drove away, a uniformed policeman played with an attack dog, And a man flew a model plane.

Seeing a total eclipse as it happens is like seeing Citizen Kane or the Mona Lisa for the first time: there is so much that has been written about it that it can be difficult to filter out preconceptions.

However, like any experience, it is best witnessed clear-eyed and accurately, and with heart and mind open to what cannot be completely defined and understood.

It was worth our four-hour drive that morning, and the seven-hour ride home.

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rollerboogie
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rollerboogie
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April 10, 2024 7:05 am

I did not see the eclipse but my brother drove to San Antonio and got a great view of it and sent some really cool pictures of it. I wasn’t personally moved to see it myself, but your description of the difference between photos and a live viewing and how it affected you was a really interesting read. Very nice debut, and I hope to see more articles from you in the future.

Last edited 2 months ago by rollerboogie
JJ Live At Leeds
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April 10, 2024 8:23 am

Great write up of a great experience. I got to witness an eclipse in 1999 but didn’t make the most of it. Went to work as normal, 15 minutes before it was due we all went outside, stood in the car park to watch and headed straight back in to work once it was done. Sometimes experiences are wasted on the young.

The next total eclipse here in Britain is 2090, even if I treat my body as a temple I don’t think I’m going to make it for that one. There is a 90% eclipse in August 2026 so that’ll have to do. I’ll be aiming to properly take it in rather than standing in a car park for that.

Virgindog
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April 10, 2024 9:50 am

Meet me in Gibraltar on August 2, 2027. Clouds permitting.

JJ Live At Leeds
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April 10, 2024 10:50 am
Reply to  Virgindog

It’s a date. Gibraltar is an odd place. Like a hot time warp Britain but with rampaging monkeys that will rob you of anything they can get their little hands on. On top of the Rock of Gibraltar would be an excellent viewing platform – though what effect the eclipse will have on the monkeys that live up there I have no idea.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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April 10, 2024 10:52 am

The dogs people brought out to the eclipse were really well behaved until just before totality. Then they started acting like something was wrong. Standing up, looking around, sniffing the air. They knew something was up but couldn’t figure it out. What monkeys might do in that situation is a really good question.

LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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April 10, 2024 6:34 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

A solitary horse in the field next to us was nonplussed and eating…until totality. Within moments it bolted for its barn. Weird. It’s like it knew something was wrong.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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April 10, 2024 9:26 am

I was 270 miles east, in Greenfield, ME and it was just as you described. The putty blue of the sky was astonishing. The other thing that got me is we were under the moon’s shadow, but could see bright, distant skies in every direction, still lit up by the sun outside the shadow. It makes sense but I wasn’t expecting it.

Nice debut, Archie. You’ve captured the experience really well.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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April 10, 2024 1:42 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Just found out that a guy I know from Nashville who has moved to New Hampshire was in Greenville, too. We were about half a mile apart. Had I known, we’d still be there talking.

Pauly Steyreen
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April 10, 2024 11:16 am

We were very far from totality in California, but we watched the tv coverage of totality in Dallas, somewhere in Arkansas, Carbondale, IL (go Salukis!), Indianapolis, Cleveland, Niagara Falls, and Burlington, VT. It was a trip how quickly it went from somewhat well-lit to near total darkness — almost like switching off a light. And it looked like a 360-degree sunrise when you were in the totality. And the eclipse looked like a metal ring suspended in the sky.

Made us wish we had made the trip after all…

lovethisconcept
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April 10, 2024 1:30 pm

Very nice piece. Welcome to the writer’s corner!

cstolliver
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cstolliver
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April 10, 2024 4:05 pm

Honestly, I was a little spooked by all the hoopla (notwithstanding a listen to Bonnie Tyler on Spotify), so I tuned out. Still, I’m very glad to hear your perspective as someone who was engaged, and moved, by the experience. Great writing and pictures.

LinkCrawford
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April 10, 2024 6:36 pm

We watched in 2017, which was really my first experience with totality. For me, it was much more impressive than I expected. I was happy to drive to Indiana to see this one. Again–worth it. Not sure I’ll see another one in my lifetime.

Edith G
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Edith G
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April 11, 2024 9:21 am

Welcome ! Thank you for sharing this.

Spoiler alert: I’m working on a new piece that has the eclipse as a “supporting character” (actually is more like a footnote).

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