FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — My wife, Anne, and I travelled north to observe the recent solar eclipse, a trip we had planned for over two years. This was her first total (eclipse), having seen only the annular in 2012. It was my fourth total, plus three past annular eclipses.
For eclipse chasers, this is a paltry number since I know astronomers who have observed over 30. However, this one would only be observed on American soil, its’ path of totality passing from the Pacific Ocean, entering the U.S. in Oregon, passing diagonally through the center of the country, then leaving over South Carolina, ending in the Atlantic Ocean.
The last time this happened was in 1918, and it will not happen again for about a half century. To observe the event, I chose a remote spot in western Nebraska, about 25 miles north of Mitchell. The reason this spot was selected was for favorable weather conditions close to the center-line of totality, and the fact that other locations would be populated by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of observers, both professional as well as first timers, since this had been promoted as a once in a life-time event to the public. So, we packed up our mobile observatory (17-foot trailer with telescopes and cameras) and headed north.
Luckily, we were able to find an agreeable farmer to let us stay on his land for two days where he even provided electricity for our equipment. We set up and pre-aligned the telescopes and cameras for advantageous solar tracking and prepared for the event.
On the morning of the 21st, as the partial eclipse phases proceeded, the lighting of the surrounding area took on an eerie dimming cast as if a storm were approaching from behind you. The breeze that was once lightly blowing stilled. Just before totality, the swallows came out, the cows got quiet, and the crickets began chirping, all events normally reserved for the early evening.
During totality, the horizon looked as if the sun had set about 45…