In Which the Prof Has a Staring Contest with the Sun

So today was the day the umbra came to Mondoville. While some folks traveled hundreds of miles to see the eclipse reach totality, Clan Mondo only had to take position in our driveway. The college’s football stadium is about 400 yards from our home, and we could hear the P.A. announcer keeping folks entertained there as we all waited. Meanwhile, I ran simulations.

Eclipse training

Sun cookie courtesy of someone at the Mondoville Y. Photo: Mrs. M.

But the real thing began soon enough, and we watched the sun dwindle (or the darkness encroach) from the upper-right quadrant. Meanwhile, Mrs. M had brought out a telescope my mom had given my dad in the early Oughts, and we took turns looking at the growing eclipse, at one point reassuring neighbors that yes, we had a solar filter on the scope. After a couple of glances, however, my innate awkwardness came to the fore, and I bumped the scope with my nose, knocking it off line. Mrs. M got it oriented again soon enough, but I decided it would be better if I stuck with the glasses.

As totality drew closer, the air cooled a bit, which is a mercy down here at this time of year. The air took on a slight silver tinge that I recalled from an annular eclipse I saw in Cincinnati in my magazine days. But even as the sun dwindled to a crescent and then to a sliver, it remained remarkably bright. It’s not easy to obscure a giant fusion reactor completely.

A few seconds before totality, things dimmed, and an automatic street light on the corner switched on, as I suspect did the one in our backyard. We saw the bands of shadow play across a white sheet Mrs. M had spread before us for the occasion; I glanced up to see the diamond ring effect, and then,

Totality. Dusk, with the sunset glow at every horizon. Like everyone, I had read and heard that for those two-and-a-half minutes, we could look directly at the sun without danger. Still, I had an instant of trepidation as I peered over the edge of my shades. But (as you likely have guessed, given that I can see to type this) that thought disappeared as I saw the black disk against the purple of the sky. I looked at the play of the half-light around me, and noticed a hush had fallen on the world, broken only by someone ringing a bell a street or two away, and a rising drone of cicadas.

I tried to soak in as much as I could, even as a voice at the back of my mind reminded me that 150 seconds isn’t very long at all. I slipped my shades back on with about 5 seconds left, looking up to see the flash of the second diamond ring, and the world began to lighten again around us. We looked at the sheet again as the flickering bands of shadow returned.

And then the Spawn said, “I’m glad we got to see this together.” Mrs. M and I agreed. And I hope things were as beautiful wherever you were this afternoon.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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1 Response to In Which the Prof Has a Staring Contest with the Sun

  1. Jeff S. says:

    We watched the Great Gig in the Sky from the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina on Monday. The enterprising locals charged $25 a head for admission to a two-day festival on their fairgrounds, with eclipse glasses included. Cheapskates that we are, we stayed outside the fairground fence but got to enjoy the drumming and chanting as the totality approached—and then everyone fell weirdly silent. The totality was much more eerily beautiful than I’d expected; the hush of an entire town makes me think that many others felt the same way.

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