All of the publicity about the solar eclipse rolled through my part of Missouri. Maps showed up in magazines, newspapers and online.
Astronomy isn’t my big interest. Stars are nice but they only come out after it’s too dark to garden or take pictures. Still, this big event sounded interesting.
Then the maps started showing Missouri details. The total solar eclipse was only 50 miles away!
That would mean my area would have almost totality. What would the goats and chickens do when it got dark?
I went to a presentation at the library. I left with proper NASA issue glasses. Should I stay home for a partial or go north for totality?
This tree was just across the parking lot from where we were settled in. The sun was full on it making the green leaves vivid against the white chat on the ground.
The pictures of the corona were so interesting. I wouldn’t see it, if I stayed home. Where should I go?
The main path was filled with people charging for the opportunity to watch this event. Crowds of people were descending. This wasn’t what I wanted to do, be part of a mob.
But the event was so close.
Three of us opted to drive north 50 miles to Canaan Conservation Area. It’s a little, mostly wooded place we had never been to. It was noted on an eclipse pathway map in The Missouri Conservationist.
The barn light was left on for the chickens. The small pasture was left open for the herd. We drove north and set up in a big, gravel parking lot and waited.
Shadows became more intense. Colors sharpened. The cicadas wavered in their drumming. The light dimmed so gradually, it was easily overlooked.
Solar eclipse viewing glasses are really dark. The only object visible through them is the sun. They made the sun look orange. The moon’s shadow was eating an arc out of the top of the sun at what would be one o’clock on a clock dial.
The temptation to take pictures didn’t faze me as I didn’t have the proper filter for the camera. I chose to take a picture of a tree beside the parking lot at regular intervals to show how the light changed as the solar eclipse progressed.
Slowly the light did change. It gave the appearance of putting on progressively stronger sunglasses.
By the time the sun’s disk was half covered, the sky changed too. It had been a typical blue summer sky dotted with clouds. Now it was dark, not the dark of sunset.
At sunset the sky’s blue deepens, gradually settling into purple that darkens into black.
This sky took on a gray tinge and looked slate blue in color.
Puffy clouds were scattered around the sky. They were brilliant white against a sky now washed with gray as two thirds of the sun was hidden.
At sunset shadows darken and blend into the darkness of the ground. The eclipse deepened and sharpened shadows so they were stark against the white chat gravel.
The grayness intensified as more and more of the sun’s disk disappeared. The shadows sharpened. The drumming of cicadas lessened.
Even when the sun was mostly covered the parking lot was bright. It looked like the world through sunglasses except for the razor sharp shadows.
Suddenly the sun vanished. The corona burst into view. It was much bigger than I expected.
Tearing my gaze away I found the parking lot was now dark. All shadows had vanished. A deep silence surrounded me.
A cricket chirped. Katydids took up the chorus. This is the night serenade during late summer but it was thin and ragged now. Grayish orange clouds showed through the trees at the horizon.
Darkness turned the trees black, erased the shadows and colors. Jupiter and Venus appeared. The clouds on the entire horizon turned a grayish yellowish orange.
But the real show was still the corona. Even the sight of Jupiter nearby wasn’t the thrill the corona was.
As suddenly as the corona appeared, it vanished as a blaze of light appeared. The moon’s shadow was moving off the sun’s disk.
The eclipse is past. The sun is emerging again. Colors and shadows reappear.
Shadows reappeared. Katydids and crickets went silent. The cicadas started drumming. All the sounds of a normal day erased the silence of the eclipse.
Will I be an eclipse chaser? No. But I understand why those who are want to see this sight over and over. Two minutes was far too short.
There is another solar eclipse only a few hours away in seven years. Temptation.