I have had several near misses with the Sun. In 1984, I lived beneath an annular eclipse that occurred above rather thick and nasty rain clouds. In 1994 I viewed a partial eclipse from the upper peninsula of Michigan. Total eclipses, however, have always avoided my path. This year I decided to purposely put myself directly in the path of the eclipse of the century.
The phrase “Eclipse of the Century” sounds a bit pretentious, but with this summer’s eclipse that phrase actually applied. This eclipse had the longest totality time that will occur during this century thanks to the lucky combination of the moon being about as close as it gets to the Earth and Sun being about as far as it gets from the earth. This meant the Sun appeared (if measured very carefully) especially small, while the moon (if measured very carefully) appeared especially large, allowing for a longer then normal period of totality. This eclipse also had the potential to be seen by more people than any other eclipse in recent memory. Starting over India and ending just shy of South America, this eclipse passed over India, China, the ocean just south of Japan, and continued to the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.
I was part of the “Eclipse of the Century” tour as one of their lecturers. Our boat was going to try and be on the center line somewhere around 130 degrees E, on our way traveling from Japan to Shanghai. It was a risk – weather was slatted to be bad everywhere and we were slatted to be at the place with the best statistical chance of good weather (something like 50% chance of good weather).
Can I just say that I hate probabilities?
The day of the eclipse I took a look out the portal a few minutes before sunrise and decided I could sleep a bit longer. The sky was solid gray. These were not the type of clouds that bring beautiful sunrises. These were the type that bring gross mornings best spent in bed with a large dog. Failing to have a dog, I just slept a bit more. Getting up an hour later, I grabbed coffee and headed to the deck.
I have never seen a sorrier group of damp individuals as I saw that morning. We tried a ran dance (mostly to amuse our wet beleaguered crowd). We tried cursing. We tried laughing. I don’t think there was any actual crying. But…. well… Let the pictures tell the story. (Not all mine.)
[IMAGES COMING – I’m on a connection that doesn’t let me get images uploaded]
I was in East Lansing for the ’94 annular eclipse. It was pretty close to the maximum coverage there (I want to say about 15-20 miles away.) Lots of people watching it using pinhole viewers and even “pinholes” created by tree leaves. Lots of fun.
I was up in the Upper Peninsula during this eclipse. I wish I’d been back on MSU’s campus, but that just wasn’t in the cards.
We were 40 km south from Shanghai during the eclipse but unfortunately we were clouded out during the totality… 50% chance of good weather wasn’t enough 🙁