Wednesday, August 30, 2017

An event that will not soon be eclipsed

On the morning of August 21, 2017 I watched the total solar eclipse from near the tee of the third hole of a golf course in Cascade, Idaho that was closed for the morning. That location was picked by an astronomer, my brother-in-law Antony Stark, who is shown at the left in the above image. Our party of eight paid $10 each for armbands. Viewing conditions were perfect, without significant cloud cover or smoke. I’d brought along a homemade wooden Safe Solar Viewer that projected an image of the sun onto a white-painted surface (see yellow arrow).     

We’d also brought my 60-mm spotting scope, to which Tony had added a filter so we could look at sunspots before the eclipse started. He also had a pair of binoculars with a solar filter. We all had viewing glasses too. Seeing the sun completely covered by the moon for two minutes was amazing. Experiencing the sky going dark and the temperature dropping significantly were way more impressive than I’d expected based on reading about them. Phil Plait has a pair of articles that discuss watching the eclipse - When the moon ate the sun and Standing under the shadow of the moon: thoughts on totality.  


My Safe Solar Viewer had a pair of lenses bought from Surplus Shed as a kit for $5. It took me $10 worth of ½” x 3-1/2” pine lumber, and about an hour of woodworking with a miter box and hand drill to assemble it. We wound up looking at the magnified projected image more than through our viewing glasses.  

My wife Elaine had begun planning this trip two years earlier. She had rented a cabin near the lake. Back then we thought we’d be watching from one of the Lake Cascade State Park campsites or day-use areas further south along Lakeshore Drive. Six of us drove 75 miles up from Boise on Saturday in an SUV and a minivan. The other two arrived on Sunday from near Stanley. On Wednesday we drove back the long way back to Boise via Banks, Lowman, Stanley, Sun Valley, and Twin Falls. At the visitor’s center in Twin Falls we saw a couple of base jumpers parachute off the Perrine Bridge and land on the south bank of the Snake River.   

I’ve crossed seeing a total eclipse off my bucket list. The next one is in 2024, and perhaps we’ll see it down in Texas.

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