Eclipse Day

by David Yoder | Jul 1, 2024 | 0 comments

The long-anticipated day had arrived! I woke up fifteen minutes before my alarm sounded. Today is the big day!

After much planning and preparation, checking weather forecasts countless times, and scratching our heads on where we should plan on going, the day had arrived. The plan was to go to a friend’s place in Salem, Arkansas.

The coach arrived fifteen minutes early, and we started loading scopes, tripods, lawn chairs, etc. We were on our way before 7 o’clock. Traffic conditions were reasonable, heavier as time went on, but not slowing us down.

Soon after entering the rolling hills of Arkansas, we arrived at our destination at 10 a.m. Thin white clouds were above us, with heavier clouds southeast, and clear skies northwest of us. Would it clear out yet? The forecast had predicted mostly sunny skies. Praise the Lord, these clouds drifted southeast, and by noon we basically had clear skies!

Besides our coach, there was another bus there as well as several vans, so we had a fair-sized crowd. I set up my small H-alpha solar telescope on the tracking mount. I also set up a Swarovski spotting scope with a bino-viewer, which a friend had loaned to us for the occasion. I installed a filter over the objective lens.

After an early lunch, we wanted to set up the “eclipsinater,” which is what we call the projection setup frame that an astronomer friend and I made for projecting sunlight through one side of my 20×80 binoculars onto a white surface at the bottom end of the frame. The result was a 9-inch image of the sun, showing sunspots and providing a neat way to observe the progress of the partial phases of the eclipse.

After mounting the “eclipsinater” onto the EQ tracking mount, we were unable to project any light. Upon investigation, we learned that the one side of the binocular had fogged up, having overheated by being in sunlight at an indirect angle for several hours before we set it on the mount. So after making some modifications, we were able to project sunlight through the other side’s tube that had been covered and, therefore, not damaged.

At 12:37 p.m., we watched the moon start its journey across the face of the sun! Oh, how precise the movements of the solar system! We had traveled three hours to experience this all, and, sure enough, God’s orderly universe is right on schedule!

We watched the moon’s progress in various ways—through the Coronado solar telescope, several spotting scopes and numerous binoculars with solar filters, the sunlight projection setup, and, of course, eclipse glasses. One highlight was watching the moon blot out a big pair of sunspots. A friend had brought a thin plywood along with small holes drilled into it, projecting tiny crescents onto a white surface, spelling the word “ECLIPSE.”

The sunlight starts to take on a different shade, almost like viewing through deeply polarized sunglasses.
The sun’s visible crescent is getting smaller rather quickly! An energizing feeling of expectancy is in the air! Cool breezes sweep over us as it gets darker yet. Totality is approaching!

About one-third of the crowd has gone to the top of a hill, where there is a better view of the horizon all around. I’m not sure what I want to do—leave the scopes or take one along? A friend is asking me whether I’m ready to go up. Time is running out! Grabbing a spotting scope, we run up the hill as fast as we can. It really is getting darker! We join the group a few minutes before totality.

The crescent is really small now. Look to the southwest! The dark mass of the shadow seems to loom across the hills, ready to envelope us! Using no filtration, I glance up repeatedly at the tiny crescent of sunlight in an effort to not miss the diamond ring and Baily’s beads. Those play out beautifully, and the deep shadow sweeps over us!

Oh! Look at that! The brilliant white glow surrounding the moon’s black outline, and the sun’s wispy corona laid out as if flowing out in every direction, frozen in motion! Several pink prominences are visible! What a spectacular, glowing jewel in the sky, designed by our Creator! Praise His name!

Look at the horizon! Sunset colors are visible all the way around! Jupiter and Venus grace the dark sky above us.

The spotting scope and numerous binoculars with their filters removed, give greatly detailed views of the glorious jewel in the sky.

A semi truck passes through out on the road, lights on, traveling on his way, never stopping. Are you serious? Completely unaware of what there is to see? How is that possible?!

Knowing the precious 3 minutes and 45 seconds of totality will not continue too much longer, we try to take in all we can…the glowing masterpiece in the sky, the unusual color hues, and the sunset colors along the horizon!

The western sky seems to be getting slightly brighter, as well as the one side of the blotted-out sun. Watch it unfold! Baily’s beads become visible with the little blobs of sunlight appearing, and the bright dot of sunlight appears as the diamond ring. This dot quickly becomes much bigger and brighter as the sunlight returns, and totality is over! Look to the northeast! The dark mass of the fleeting shadow is really visible, and it hides the distant hills from view! Not for long, though, as it’s traveling at a speed of around 1800 MPH! Speed on your way, shadow, to the amazement of millions along this path of totality!

We are absolutely amazed at what we just experienced! The breath­-taking beauty, the sheer immensity of this all, and the precise movement of it! Something so rare and wonderful, and we got to experience it! I believe God is glorified as He allows us to get a glimpse of His amazing creativity and power! I am moved to my very core—words fail to describe it.

We go down the hill to the rest of the group. We occasionally check the progress of the partial phase, in the midst of discussions on eclipses and related subjects.

After some time, the idea of going home is presented. OK. We get everything together and loaded. When we are ready to leave, the partial phase is about ten minutes from ending. I view it one last time before getting on board. Even though the partial phase seems to be of little importance after totality, this is still a kind of rare sight. But go with the flow some­times. So, we leave, homeward bound.

With the heavy traffic, the three-hour trip home became five. We saw vehicles from CA, OK, TX, MN, CO, NY, IL, UT, WA, GA, SD, MS, NE, IA, and NJ.

We didn’t deserve having all this work out for us, and God is worthy of our praise regardless of our circumstances, but seeing how He worked things out for us makes us deeply grateful.

I feel sorry for those whose hopes of being in the path under clear skies did not become reality.
And to those of you who were convinced it wasn’t worth travelling for, thank you for staying home. It really helped out with the traffic.

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