Monday, August 21, 2017


I want to say "Wow."

I'm not sure I'm there.

Like nearly everybody else in the path of today's solar eclipse, I waited with great expectation. At times, I watched the NASA streaming of the phenomenon on Facebook, which showed spectacular images of totality— even to the point of near mystical inspiration for me — from one location to the next.

Halo sees the sunlight dimming out, then wants something to eat.
 The corona. Bailey's Beads. Sun spots. The diamond ring.

Television was how I was going to view this thing anyway, and I saw it all.

So when the real thing finally made its way to North Carolina around 2:40 p.m., this is what I experienced:

• There was some cloud cover, but even so it still was evident something greater was blotting out the sun. We were never going to reach totality in our area — I think we were close to 95 percent of total — but there was a weird kind of sunlight out there at the peak moment. It wasn't quite dawn. It wasn't quite dusk. It was somehow muted sunlight, if ever there could be such a thing. Or maybe distilled sunlight. Or diluted. Unusual. But it was never dark. My backyard motion-sensor security light never cut on even while I was doing jumping jacks in front of it.

My friends at Mountcastle can't resist...
• The rabbits and squirrels in my yard disappeared, but maybe that's because a lawn service was running its commercial mower at neighboring Mountcastle Insurance during all of this. Or maybe those creatures really were confused. I don't know.

Birds briefly disappeared. Crickets and cicadas sounded off, although it could have been weed whackers. But I'll go with the crickets.

By 3 p.m., the squirrels and rabbits were back. But the mowers were gone. Correlation? You decide.

• I did feel a drop in temperature, but only slightly. It was a humid afternoon to begin with and it was already warm, so the dip in Farenheit was only minimal, I thought. From the high 80s to the mid 80s, I'd guess.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience, if not overwhelmed by it. When I watched it on TV, I marveled at the natural precision it takes for a total eclipse — the moon is in the exact right location, the exact right mile from the earth and the exact right mile from the sun, to make both spheres appear to be the same size in the sky as they merge. Awesome stuff. Enough to make me an astronomer in a different life, if only all that galactic mathematics didn't get in the way.

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