Tag Archives: Total eclipse of the sun


21 Aug

No one can truly prepare a solar eclipse novice to the extraordinary moment of totality. You can say it gets cooler. You can tell them about the moon’s shadow rushing toward you. You can say it is spectacular. 

Watching the eclipse with welder’s goggles.

Each of the events come in sequence.   Watching the solar bands as they flicker in the ground. Explaining the ring of Fire that surrounds the shadow. And finally you can tell them about the absolute spectacular moments that encompass totality. You can tell them. But they cannot understand until they have actually experienced the moment. And then they know. 

Watching the shadow come over the Grand Tetons.

That moment when the moon’s shadow reaches the sun and it goes black. And a sparkle of light flashes out one last time: the diamond ring. There are no words,  Except, “Oh My God!”  

 Then comes the displays of light. The Bailey’s beads. The solar flares. The prominences that jump into the sky. You can now see them without the bright light of the sun blinding your eyes. And time seems to flicker by. Two minutes seem take just seconds to pass. 

Ring of Fire!

Each eclipse has its own special corona. The white light that shoots out in all directions from the sun. This one seemed Star shaped. 

I was blessed to see this eclipse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with the Grand Tetons in the horizon. 500 of us were fortunate to be at the Jackson Hole Golf Club. A most glorious spot to see the magnificent sky show. 

I am so blessed to have seen five eclipses. I am already looking forward to 2020 in Chile and 2024 in Texas! 

I truly believe that everyone should see at least one eclipse. But I know if you do, you will want to see another and another. You will join our band of umbraphiles who wish to once again stand in totality and stand in the glory of the moon’s shadow. 

Preparing For My Fifth Eclipse

15 Aug

Watching the eclipse on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea 2006.

Today I had a manicure in black and silver in honor of the total eclipse of the sun that will occur on Monday, August 21. Later I ordered five eclipse t-shirts designed by a friend!  I am getting excited!  Just five more days to the eclipse!

I remember when I went on my first Eclipse trip in 1998 to see the eclipse on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. Little did I know then that seeing an eclipse would take me to Austria, Hungary, Greece and Turkey and now the USA.

During the eclipse in 1999 in Europe, I found out about the eclipse on August 21, 2017. I thought it was so far away. And I would be so OLD…62. I was not sure I could even think of an eclipse so far in the distant future. But here it is. I am 62. I will see it. 18 years went very quickly.

This will actually be my fifth total eclipse. The first one I accidentally saw was on the East Coast when I was a teenager on March 7, 1970. I remember being told not to look at the sun. I do remember it getting dark. But I honestly do not remember much of that celestial event.

My next three viewings of total eclipses were well thought out by my husband. Although he is a physician now, he spent his high school career determined to be an astrophysicist. He even studied at Cal Tech for the first two years of college. Although he totally changed his major, he never lost his love of the universe.  (I wrote about this in an earlier blog, see link below.)

On our first date, as we walked across the campus at the University of Missouri, he pointed out constellations in the night sky. This love of stars is contagious. I soon fell under the eclipse spell.

I have seen eclipse on land and in the ocean.

I cannot explain the magic that occurs as you see the moon shadow racing towards you as darkness overcomes daylight.

I cannot describe the beautiful red, orange, gold, yellow, white splashes of light the pour forth from the corona of a total eclipse.

To see the spurts and flourishes of the sun’s plasma as it shoots into the sky.

A vision you cannot normally see due to the brightness of the sun.

But now can look directly into the dark circle and see the stunning displays of light.

I cannot wait until Monday when we once again will stand in the darkness of an totally eclipsed sun! We plan to be with our umbraphile friends in Wyoming as we stand in awe during the eclipse.

My husband and I have vowed to take no photos during the eclipse. Let the experts do that. Instead we will look skyward and enjoy the spectacular joy of an eclipse.


Umbraphile: definition: one who loves eclipses


Space…Astronomy….and the First Walk on the Moon

29 Jun

Forty five years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.  Their adventure encourage so many children to dream of going into space as well.  Here is how it impacted my family.

My husband is the space nerd in my life. He watched the original “2001: A Space Odyssey” 21 times when it first came out. He helped start the astronomy club in high school and helped to make a six-inch reflector lens for the school’s telescope.

Eventually he went to CalTech, in Pasadena, CA, to study astrophysics and quantum mechanics. He spent a summer up on Mount Wilson doing research with a large telescope. He loved his time at CalTech. But he realized that there were others much more talented then he in physics, and left CalTech to become a doctor of medicine.

When I met him, he was in medical school. But the quest and the conquest of space was still an important part of his enjoyment. He loved learning about space. On one of our first dates he showed me the constellations. His “Sky and Telescope” magazines have been coming monthly to him for the entire 37 years we have been a couple. And yes, he does watch “The Big Bang Theory” on television each week.

His love of the night skies has influenced many of our vacations. A trip to Hawaii included a tour to the top of Mauna Kea where all the giant telescopes look to the sky. We saw the green flash at twilight and watched as the telescopes opened their eyes for the night, including the twin Keck observatories. We were standing in front of the CalTech Submillimeter Observatory telescope as it opened. My husband gleefully spoke to the students and staff inside. Oh heaven!

We then traveled partway down the volcano to look through much smaller telescopes to view the Milky Way galaxy, as well as constellations like the Seven Sisters and others. They are so much brighter and intense on a clear night on a high mountain in the middle of the ocean. We even saw twin suns, one a blue cooling star.

For a vacation in California, we went to the first ever SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial intelligence) Conference in Santa Clara during August 2010. We joined in the celebration of the 50th anniversary SETI program and honored Frank Drake, who founded SETI, on his 80th birthday.

I have even been on a private tour of MIT so Jay could see its campus and the graft of the apple tree that dropped an apple on Isaac Newton. Yes, the tree exists in a private courtyard at MIT!

To make her Dad happy from the moment she was born, our daughter was born on the 24th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic orbits around the Earth, the day after the MIR Space Station was launched, and during the time in 1986 that Halley’s Comet was in sight. What a daughter!  What a happy Dad! We really thought she would work for NASA one day.

My husband and son watching the start of an eclipse from a cruise ship near Greece.

My husband and son watching the start of an eclipse from a cruise ship near Greece.

Our children have benefited from their Dad’s sky obsessions. We have witness the aurora borealis in Alaska. Watched the Perseid’s meteor shower while lying on the ground at a castle in Hungary. They have traveled with us to stand in the moon’s shadow and experience the eerie silence of a total eclipse of the sun. We journeyed three times so far to the sweet spot where the longest duration of eclipse was to be found: the Caribbean, Hungary and Greece.

While wearing welders’ goggles to protect our eyes, we have reveled at first contact and then “ooohed” at the diamond ring that occurs immediately before totality and the aurora of the sun. We marveled that each aurora is slightly different. And enjoy those few minutes of staring straight at the sun during totality without worrying about eye damage.

Total Eclipse of the Sun 1998.

Total Eclipse of the Sun 1998.

With a six-inch reflecting telescope in our garage, our children experienced seeing the different planets and space elements up close. Our neighbors have, at times, turned off all their outside lights for a viewing party. We have watched lunar eclipses and meteor showers from our front yard. We stood outside our home with binoculars to see the comet Hale-Bopp streak by…even though it was not that great, to be honest.. and watched the transit of Venus from our back deck. Our son took an astronomy class in both high school and college so he could learn more about the sky.

My children and husband watching the transit of Venus across the sun through shadows.  My daughter has her welder's goggles on for when she actually looks at the sun.

My children and husband watching the transit of Venus across the sun through shadows. My daughter has her welder’s goggles on for when she actually looks at the sun.

As a 40th birthday gift, I sent my husband to Adult Space Camp in Huntsville, where he envisioned what life for him would have been if he did not have a heart murmur and could have been a doctor/astronaut. He bought an official NASA blue jumpsuit, which he wore for many years on Halloween to the children’s hospital where he works.

Both my children have attended parent/child space camp in Huntsville, Alabama, with their Dad. And my daughter attended four additional years of Space Camp: two years in Hutchinson, Kansas, at the Cosmosphere, where we have been members for over 20 years; and two years at Huntsville.   At Space Camp she got to meet Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, and have him autograph a book! We have all read books by John Glenn, Homer Hickman, and others who worked in the space program.

Originally she wanted to be an astronaut, but while in high school, at space camp in Huntsville, she changed her mind. “An astronaut came to talk to us,” she told me.  “He said that he was part of the ‘penguin’ group, the group of astronauts who will never fly.” WIth this information, my daughter decided it was not practical to plan on being an astronaut.

Through all this, I remain an interested accomplice because I also have a profound interest in space. Mine does not date to the movies or to my studies, but rather to July 20, 1969, when the “eagle” landed on the moon.

The anticipation had been increasing for over a week as Apollo 11 raced through space. At the bungalows that is all we could speak about as the spaceship reached each hurdle and passed on to the next step in its voyage. Would the rocket take off safely? Would they reach orbit around the moon? Would the landing ship detach correctly? Would they actually land on the moon?

In those days, 45 years ago, we did not have good television reception in the Catskills. In fact, the summer was ‘no television’ time. Most people did not even have a television in their bungalows.

But my grandparents had a year-round house with television reception. And a special exception was made for the moon landing. We were allowed to stay up so late that night. Many of us squished into a small space, sitting together on the floor, chairs, and couch, others standing as we watched the grainy black and white television.

Reception was going in and out, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. We stayed awake as Armstrong became the first man to walk on another surface besides Earth. We were mesmerized by the events. The adults were silent until both Armstrong and Aldrin were safely walking on the surface of the moon. Then there was cheering and a feeling of such excitement.

It was the event of the summer…till then. (Less than a month later, another closer event would also change our world: Woodstock.)

We were elated, exhausted, and extremely proud of what the United States did that night. Apollo 11’s crew members were our heroes.   What a night!

Then came the next round of anticipation. Would they be able to take off from the moon? Would they be able to connect with the orbiting Apollo 11 ship? Would they reach home? YES! They did!

During those July weeks, my interest in space and the night skies became forever part of my life. Now each time I travel with my husband to another planetarium (he wants to go to every one in the USA); or another space museum; or another eclipse; I feel that excitement bubble up. I am 14 again, watching the first men walk on the moon. We might have come to our love of space from separate places, but we share the excitement that the sky offers each and every night.