This week I learned that the sun is really bright. You’d think I’d already known that – but it really is amazing how bright it is.
Ellyn and I went to Casper, Wyoming, which is exactly on the line of totality. Casper is a town of about 60K that has an airport and highways headed east and west exactly along the line. It was also supposed to have the best odds at favorable weather.
We arrived Saturday with reservations for a minivan, sleeping bags, and air mattresses, and no place to stay. We ended up with a giant SUV and found a very nice family renting out parking spaces at their drive-up diner (used to be an A&W) who let us use their restrooms – which was really all we needed. So we car-camped there. After the eclipse on Monday we were able to get a hotel room for reasonable (instead of $2k+/night) so we could have much needed showers.
The eclipse was amazing. Various of our parking-lot-mates had set up different viewing tools/projects. But mostly we just watched it through our glasses. It takes about 90 minutes from first contact until totality, then a bit under 2 minutes 30 seconds of totality, and another 90 minutes until the moon leaves the sun. So we peeked every few minutes until it got really close – then just left the glasses on and watched for the “last few minutes”. When the total eclipse happens there is a moment of confusion – suddenly there isn’t even the crescent of the sun and you’re looking at nothing through your glasses. Nothing. Then you realize now is the time you can take your glasses off and look at the totality – and there it is – the sun’s corona and a few planets visible in the sky. It is crazy and beautiful and amazing.
I highly recommend you get to a total eclipse if you ever have an opportunity to do so. For those that wonder what the difference is between a partial and a total eclipse, the answer is everything. Here’s my poor metaphor: you’re at home at night and there are 5 lights on in the house. 4 bedroom lights (closet, 2 reading, and the main light) and a light on in the bathroom down the hall. 33% eclipse is like turning off the closet light. You can see a difference in the light in the bedroom, but not a lot. 66% you also turn off a reading light. Different, but the room is still well lit. 99% you turn off another reading light. Still lots of light. When you turn the bedroom light off it’s like 100% eclipse – the last bit of sunlight is that bright – it’s the difference between having all the lights off and having the main bedroom light still on. It’s not pitch black because the bathroom light down the hall is on – but the bedroom is “dark”.
We will certainly try to get to the 2024 eclipse.