The Great American Eclipse: Part 1

Part 1 of 8

Responsibilities at home make travel difficult for me.   However I didn’t want to miss the Great American Eclipse of 2017.  This was to be the first total eclipse of the sun visible from the contiguous United States since February 26, 1979.  Think of it, the 1979 eclipse was more than thirty-eight years ago and it was a comparatively small affair confined to the far northern states and in the dead of winter.  Most of the viewing areas that day were frigidly cold and clouded over.  So I decided to mount an attempt to view the totality of the 2017 event.   But, by necessity, my efforts would need to be a lightning fast, one-day-only, eclipse expedition.  Success seemed doubtful but apparently I had managed to garnered the favor of the Astronomy Gods and they smiled on my efforts.  On the big day everything came together beautifully.  I can’t say that this success was the result of careful and meticulous advanced planning so what other explanation could there be other then some form of divine intervention?

I arrived at the San Francisco Airport in the predawn darkness of August 21, only hours before the eclipse.  Any delay or missed connection would doom the endeavor to failure.   Thankfully the good people at Alaska Airlines were doing a crackerjack job and Flight 389 departed from runway 1L for Portland Oregon right on time.  On take-off the Boeing 737 entered a thin layer of fog at about 800 feet.  We punched through the overcast in a matter of seconds and as we did so we were treated to the sight of a spectacular California sunrise.  I hoped this would be a harbinger of good fortune.  The rays of the sun painted the undersides of the scattered clouds a pleasing orange red hue and I reached for my trusty Leica X2 to capture an image.  Satisfied with the results I settled back into my economy class seat to enjoy the view and to savor the moment.   I was amazed that not everyone with a window seat was doing the same.  Most of my fellow travelers had their heads down and their eyes fixed on their devices, or on a magazine, or perhaps on work related business. 

It’s a strange thing to ponder.  Here we are, creature made out of water standing on a rock eight thousand miles in diameter.  That rock is hurtling through space at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour around a thermonuclear fireball ninety-three million miles away.  What other subject could be more compelling?  None that I can think of.  And yet most people have little to no interest in astronomy.  Most of us humans can’t be bother to look up at the stars and wonder about our place in the universe.  How is this sad state of affairs possible?  I suspect that on some level our educational system has failed us.  If only children were introduced to good science from an early age astronomy would have more enthusiasts than professional sports.  Perhaps I’m wrong but it’s just the way I feel. 

(To be continued.) 

  • Aperture: ƒ/4.5
  • Camera: LEICA X2
  • Taken: August 21, 2017
  • Flash fired: no
  • Focal length: 24mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s
    The Great American Eclipse: Part 1