Updated: Aug 10, 2021
The Eclipse observation site On the day of the eclipse you will want to get to your observation site in good time before “first contact”. That is when the edge of the moon first touches the edge of the Sun. At this stage you will need a special viewer to look at the Sun as a curved 'bite' is taken from one side.
Waiting for the Moon Tension starts to build as the moon progressively covers the Sun. The light level goes down, but at the same time your eyes adapt to the gradual changes so the change remains almost unnoticed until the eclipse is well advanced. The landscape is drained of colour and shadows sharpen as the Sun is reduced to a bright crescent and eventually a single point.
Stars and Planets Look at the shadows under a tree and you will see the leaves create a thousand small arcs of light. The temperature only drops a degree or two, but there is a sense of chill in the air as the radiant heat from the Sun is cut off. A blue sky has turned to a pale morning grey and bright planets have reappeared. The last couple of minutes before totality race through at top speed as the moon's shadow hurtles towards you. The sun is reduced to a single searing point of brightness and as this final point is extinguished, bright beads remain momentarily along the edge as the sunlight shines through the valleys on the moon.
The Eclipse event Suddenly the brightness is gone, leaving a jet-black disk of the moon clothed in the flowing robes of the solar corona and surrounded by the delicate red rim of the chromosphere. Crimson licks of prominences reach out from the rim and as your eyes become accustomed to the dark, the fine structure of the corona becomes visible. There is an unearthly red glow around the horizon and a sense of a large dark shadow looming above. The time of totality ticks by, then a few flickers of bright beads on the edge of the dark disk herald the end of the performance. The burst of light which shocks your dark adjusted vision is the final climax. Always expected but always a surprise: sunlight returns, colour and warmth are restored, everything is back to normal. Until next time...
Astro Trails current eclipse projects can be viewed here
Photo Credit: Nick James (Bella Vista Argentina 2019)