Features
Eclipse 2024

Eclipse 2024

The day the sun went away.

  Dateline: Austin, Texas, April 8, 2024  

It takes a mighty big whump to the head to get Americans interested in anything relating to science. Science was and still is the realm of nerds, geeks, and multi-millionaires. But when the sun winks out, even if just briefly, we set down our beers in awe and feat. I’ve had my share of partial eclipses over the years, including one about 4 years ago, when Florida received an impressive partial eclipse, turning my backyard dark but shiny. I tried to wood burn the eclipse onto a piece of pine using a giant lens they used to sell to enlarge your TV screen. This was a failure and a bad idea, but at least I did not go blind. This year I had a better idea: Mooch off my relatives.

My brother clearly bought a house in Austin, right in the path of totality. I suggested we visit, but he’s a sharp guy. “You just want to see the eclipse, right?” he queried. “That thought HAD crossed my mind, but when’s the last time we visited? It HAS been a while.” I knew he had an extra bedroom, and his kids had all flown the coop. I had him cornered.

So off we went, and magically I got a direct Orlando to Austin flight on an airline that owed me a gazillion miles. The flight was OK, the weather nice. And Austin was crazier than it normally is for South by Southwest. We settled in, and as the eclipse grew closer, the weather became iffy. A deck of high clouds tied to a front rolled in. As the eclipse moment drew nigh, the clouds held their ground. We had no choice but to wait it out, so we moved the lawn chairs and cooler to the driveway and dug in. Down the street, the local grade school was hosting a watch party for their students. They passed out eclipse glasses and bottles of water. My little posse held on, occasionally checking for solar views, but the clouds held and the sky darkened. I taped a solar filter to my camera, and time passed.

As totality approached, so did a small miracle. A hole opened through the clouds. I snapped some shots of partial totality. Now the hole in the clouds grew larger, and the grade school kids grew louder. I was snapping frames like a fashion photographer and hoping for the best. The last little bump of the sun went dark, and the kids down the street roared approval. We stared at the “Baily’s Beads,” and for four full minutes it was evening dark. I had witnessed my first complete totality, and possibly my last. Texas weather treated us gently, and the cell phone camera shot will contribute to science for weeks to come. Now all that is left is flying home and sorting through the 157 shots I took. All were out of focus.

But my brother had ONE good one, and here it is. It makes a great screen saver. Feel free to share.

Featured photo by Paul E. Pergande.


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