A Total Eclipse of the Sun

Only an hour after having seen the eclipse it was like trying to remember a distant dream.

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I have always wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun, in fact it has always been a “bucket list item” — things to do or see before you die (i.e., kick the bucket). And now that I have, I can honestly say that it was a far more amazing experience than I thought it would be…

I now understand why it totally freaked-out folks back before they understood what was happening. We of course now know it’s coming WELL in advance… to the extent that people will book rooms along the path of totality as early as two years before the event…

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And, with our trusty NASA approved special eyewear we can watch the whole process as it progresses from partial, where the sun looks not unlike the phases of the moon but over the course of about an hour… through to the total eclipse which looks unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

That said, I thought I knew what to expect. There are no shortage of pictures of the total eclipse, from those taken by folks who went out and purchased thousands of dollars worth of special equipment (which some of my friends have done) to what can be achieved by just putting your safety glasses in front of your cell phone’s camera lens (possibly not the best of ideas) … but no matter how good they are, (and this site has some of the best I’ve seen so far 10+ Of The Best Shots Of The 2017 Solar Eclipse) the fact remains that NONE of the pictures I’ve seen to date manage to catch the glorious even that my eyes saw.  The “closest” if it’s not photoshopped is one that I spotted on facebook:

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“My uncle, Terry, took the best picture I’ve seen of an eclipse. Just wow!!!” was posted to Facebook by someone named James Richards (not a personal friend)

But even the photo above isn’t ‘right’ … although it does approach the beauty of the thing.

To quote my friend Brad Templeton, whose blog comment I’ve been paraphrasing since I first read it, “Totality is everything: The difference between a total solar eclipse and a partial one — even a 98% partial one — is literally night and day. It’s like the difference between sex and holding hands [only I now think that what he really meant was it’s the difference between an orgasm and holding hands] the total eclipse is by far the most spectacular natural phenomenon visible on this planet. Beyond the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Norway, etc. So if you can get to totality, get there. Do not think you are seeing the eclipse if you don’t get into the zone of totality.”

This is not to say partial isn’t worth taking the time to look at, it is… it’s exciting. And as the partial extends towards totality some cool things begin to occur. Even if it’s the middle of a sunny day, bugs and birds will start to get confused, and think it’s either overcast (for the bugs) or moving towards sunset, for the birds… and they’ll begin making the sorts of noises you don’t expect to be hearing at 1:00 in the afternoon. And then when the partial begins to approach totality the spaces between the leaves on the trees will act like pin hole cameras, projecting some cool looking shadows on to the ground.

But then totality occurs and even if you aren’t looking up at the sun, it’s obvious that something completely different is happening. Firstly, if you’re at all color sensitive — anyone trained in the arts as I was, will be… and this is doubly true for trained photographers (I think) …. The quality of the light all around you is just… well DIFFERENT; it was like sunset but with a lot of blue instead of reds and yellows. It was like what I imagine standing on a different with a blue sun rather than a yellow one must be like….

And then the colors directly around sun during full eclipse, no photo I’ve seen managed to get it … What I do remember seeing was a black circle surrounded by a sort of radiant blue light that moved from darker blue near the circle to lighter and then to yellow rays…  It was unlike anything I’d ever seen, so I’m not sure my brain in the 2+ minutes it lasted was able to really grasp it, but that said, it was radically different from the experience of the partial eclipse.

Also now I understand why folks plan their travels around seeing it over and over (something that to be honest I always thought was a bit — well if you’ve already seen it three times why are you putting in all this time and effort, let alone expense, to see it again? NOW I get it) Those 2+ minutes of full eclipse are a radically different experience than the partials leading to and from… and I’m already talking with friends about maybe heading down to south American in 2019 for the next one which is supposed to cross Chile and Argentina. 

Dec. 21, 2015: SpaceX Takeoff and LANDING!

Today I watched history being made! I watched a rocket take off from Cape Canaveral, and then LAND again where it was supposed to. Humanity has crossed a technological threshold!!

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If you draw a line straight down from the takeoff to the far bank (next to the blue building), thats’ about where I sat

My whole time I was in Florida I kept MEANING to go to Cape Canaveral, but just was never able to drag my ass out there, for a host of reasons, including inertia. The first liftoff I saw with my own eyes was on this trip, and it was quite by accident; I was at Disney’s Epcot, and happened to look in the right direction at the right moment and saw it. It was amazing. But I wanted to see one up close (well, as close as legally possible without paying an arm and a leg for the privilege). Finally, I saw on one of the web pages that track this stuff that there was going to be a liftoff (launch) tonight.

I drove out to the east coast of Florida to see the 8:30pm blast off… hopeful that it would happen. The last takeoff I intended to go to got scraped because of bad weather, and we did initially have a forecast for storms for tonight as well, but happily they had been moved that off till tomorrow.

Per the suggestion of one of my best and oldest friends (the guy whose Winter Garden house I lived in from June through August — it’s like a 15 min. drive from there to the back gate of Disney) I drove almost an extra hour south to grab a hot dog for dinner from the Florida branch of Mustard’s Last Stand before heading north again to see the lift off. Unhappily it turned out to be a totally bogus rip off of a Chicago institution for the Northwestern University crowd, with the original being located right next to our football stadium, whose dogs are regularly listed as the best in the whole Chicago area. (The Evanston/Chicago one has been around since 1969, the rip off (while they nabbed the url first) has only been around since 1987 (and how scummy is that? First they copy the name — adding Chicago style eatery so as not to infringe, and then they nabbed the url, Seriously!). There was spotty rain while I got my dog, and I hoped they wouldn’t scrap the liftoff again.

Note: I was EXCEEDINGLY unhappy with my Cheese dog, and it was totally NOT worth the extra drive (which almost had me late for the launch) … Firstly, they used the cheaper Velveeta as the cheese (BLECH) instead of using high quality Merkts cheese like they should have (even though it IS sold in local stores, so no excuse there). Also secondly, while the hotdogs were Vienna beef, they were those really skinny small ones and NOT the big meaty ones any Chicagoan would have expected, so it was mostly bun… MAJOR rip off.

Driving back up I stopped at a local gas station and asked where I should go to watch the liftoff.  The guy working the counter and the female customer (who looked to be about 30, but who was CLEARLY a meth addict) both suggested jetty park as the best free location; but, by the time I got down here it was kind of obvious from the backed up cars that parking near there would be an issue. So, I grabbed the first parking space near that I could find (way at the other end, by the Milliken’s Reef restaurant) and ended up sitting next to two older gentlemen on a bench. There were a lot of people here, so I could guess how crowded the preferred location was.

RIGHT behind where I was standing there was this bizarre, modernistic looking building (built to kind of look like a rocket), which turned out to be named Exploration Tower… they had turned off all the lights in it, right before the lift off, and then they came back on afterwards… and I thought to myself “that would have been a great place to view the take off….” When I got home I was looking at some of these images on line and found the one from Reuters at the top of this blog, which I’m willing to bet money was taken from that building.

Granted, my recording isn’t very good… I did it off of my iphone 4s, which is already on it’s last legs (I wanted a new one but the iphones they released are SO much bigger that they don’t suit me, am waiting for them to release a replacement for the 5s before I buy one). However, this is why G-d made Youtube.

That said, the fact is no recording really does justice to the experience. What sounds like wind hitting the microphone was this massive roaring noise that seemed to be everywhere at once that you just had to experience, and there was the camaraderie of the crowds, the excitement in the air, etc…. you just can’t feel that in the videos, the roaring and cheering of the crowds, so loud that you could even hear the folks across the bay cheering when the SpaceX stuck the landing…

It was amazing!

And I was there…. and the whole drive home I was feeling “l saw something historic today” and then, the two hours of driving and the overwhelming emotional excitement of the launch of the space X have wore me out completely by the time I got home.

 

Awestruck: viewing my VERY First Rocket Launch with My Own Eyes at DisneyWorld

This was a truly earth shattering moment for me. I was walking around Epcot, near the China pavilion, when suddenly I saw something metallic glint in the sun, and a trail of something white behind it, lifting straight up towards the sky… it took me about a second to realize what it must be.

I was amazed, and dumb struck (practically immobile) … I could not speak. Seriously… I started pointing up at the sky, could NOT get a word out of my mouth and making these weird moaning noises instead (people initially thought I was mad). When no one paid attention I starting poking men who were walking by (Fathers with kids) and pointing at the sky.

One of them finally said, “What, what am I supposed to be looking …. OH SHIT! It’s a ROCKET!” And this finally got the attention of the other people who were looking at me like I was a mad woman.

Still I could barely move and wasn’t doing very well with the talking either … I’m not over stating this… I was completely dumb struck, as in unable to speak. This man started pointing it out to his kids, loudly, and then other folks all stopped to see what we were pointing at, exclaiming things like, “THIS has made this trip worth it (from bored dads)!” and “I’ve never seen this before!” “Amazing!” “Oh my G-D!!!” “Honey LOOK!” “Wow, that must be from Cape Canaveral!” etc. … and we, as a growing crowd of techno geeks, watched it climb and climb till it disappeared

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Only after the shock and awe subsided and my voice and wits returned to me — after we had all congratulated ourselves, all bonding in the enormity of the moment in a communion of “THAT WAS SO FUCKING COOL!!!!”…  did I finally remember to pull out my camera… hence the lousy photo of the smoke as it was already beginning to be pushed around by the winds  — it had been a perfectly straight line.

….. and I for one was completely overcome with my emotions for at least the next half hour.

One interesting thing was that it seemed to be the only woman who gave a shit. All the guys who passed (who weren’t locals and hence accustomed to the site) stopped and stared, but I noticed that women seemed more annoyed by their husbands being distracted from being at Disney than interested in what was happening in front of them. Not one of them was like, “teaching moment for my kids,” … that seemed to be left to the men.