Monday, August 21, 2017 was the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States since February 26, 1979. Although I was only 7 at the time, I still remember it. Our whole elementary school made shoe box viewers and we all stood out on the playground to watch the eclipse. It was a day I’ll never forget.
This year Dave and I were so excited that our girls were going to get to experience the same phenomenon. And living here in Arkansas I was anticipating viewing a closer to total eclipse (93%) than I had in Indiana back in 1979 (we only experienced about 80% coverage). The girls were starting their second week back at school and we assumed that the school had made proper preparations for this historic event. We thought WRONG! The Thursday before the eclipse we got an automated phone call from the superintendent of our school system stating that due to “safety concerns,” they were keeping all students inside school buildings during the hours of the eclipse and the children would be able to watch it “live” on NASA TV. (Not live in Arkansas, live in Oregon and South Carolina and wherever else NASA had cameras, but not live like we would see it here). We were flabbergasted. It turns out that the school had ordered viewing glasses but they were now unsure of the safety of their purchase. So their solution was that nobody would get to view the eclipse in person. I understand their concern for the safety of the children but this was an event that hadn’t occurred in 38 years and I wanted my children to have the opportunity to experience it first-hand.
Needless to say, my husband and I made a mad scramble to try to acquire viewing glasses. We weren’t going to let our girls miss witnessing this historic event first hand, but everyone was sold out. Dave’s mom came to our rescue, overnighting us three pairs of glasses on Saturday from Colorado! Thank you Nana! We gave one pair to my mom, who shared them with her whole neighborhood so everyone could get a glimpse of this monumental moment. We picked the girls up early from school and the four of us shared the other two pairs of glasses. We laid on the lawn in our backyard and watched the sun move across the sky as the moon crossed in front of it. Once the sun was 93% covered by the moon, the sliver of the sun at the bottom that wasn’t covered seemed to rotate around the right side of the moon until it reached the top and then the moon slowly passed completely off the sun.
During the eclipse we even tried some other methods of viewing the event. Peyton made a simple “pinhole” viewer by punching a hole in a piece of cardboard with an ice pick. When she held it up above her shoulder with her back to the sun it projected a crescent-shaped light on the shadows on a dark t-shirt that we used for a background. The side and shape of the crescent changed as the moon moved across the sun.
Someone on the radio had suggested using a colander in the same manner as Peyton’s pinhole viewer. It took a little while to get the angle and distance right but then we were rewarded with a whole “colander-full” of tiny crescent “lights” reflected on the dark background.
The trees shading our swimming pool even made crescent-shaped shadows on the pool and pool deck.
Peyton’s words: “The Solar Eclipse was awesome. It got dark and kind of chilly. It was a great experience because I wouldn’t want to watch it on TV. That would be lame. We got 95% covered and we could only see a sliver of the sun and we watched the sliver move to the right side of the sun and then the moon slowly slid off the sun and when the sun was 1/2 covered with the glasses it was an orange circle that looked like someone took a bite out of it.”
Presley’s words: “The moon resembled a cookie with bites being taken out of it, kind of like Cookie Monster ate the sun. I thought it sort of looked like a moon on Halloween, all orange and scary. We got to lay down on the lawn and watch it with our safety glasses on. I hope when I am older, I remember this awesome event and get to tell my children all about it. It got eerily dark and looked almost like when you dim the darkness on your phone. I can’t wait to tell my friends about what I saw since they had to watch it on TV, which wasn’t even the one happening here, it was just NASA talking about the eclipse and showing it from different parts of the United States. It was a really cool scientific and historical event, since the last eclipse on North America was in 1979.”
It was a wonderful experience to share with my family and I’m sure none of us will ever forget it. Maybe I should be grateful that the school’s plans fell apart. If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have gotten to share this moment with my girls.