By Raz Rasmussen
On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse occurred with the totality zone, (where you get a full eclipse), wiping from the northwest to the southeast of the United States spanning about 70 miles wide. In cities all over America, citizens were preparing for the worst. “I think it’s going to be like Y2K was, the anticipation is huge but nothing’s going to happen. I’ve got an extra gallon of milk, water, all the Pepsi I need,” said Beth Lords, an Idaho Falls resident. “They told us to expect half a million people. I think it’s definitely necessary because nobody knows what’s going to happen. Audry, the man eating plant from “Little Shop of Horrors” could happen,” Lords said.
Spencer Lords, Beth Lords’ husband, also expressed concern saying, “If the sun is the life and blood for our whole galaxy and it gets blotted out you know that’s pretty serious really. So if the temperature could drop 20 degrees when the sun is blotted out for a few minutes, what would it do if it was blotted out for 24 hours? We would all die.” Lords, now 86 years-old, recalled an experience he had 77 years ago with a partial solar eclipse. “I remember when I was a little boy and we didn’t have these fancy little glasses so we took broken glass and smoked it over a candle and smoked it real heavy with the candle wax and that’s what we used to view the eclipse through with the smoked glass.”
Many of us are willing to do anything we can to make a memory that will last a lifetime. That’s why I decided to travel to Idaho Falls to observe the total eclipse. The journey to get to the totality zone was easy. I arrived Sunday night and stayed at my great uncle’s house–right within the totality point. That evening, I explained to my family members and their neighbors what to expect, when, for how long, what to do, and other aspects regarding how to go about observing the eclipse.
The next morning, we went to their backyard, which was combined with the neighbors. The lawn chairs were set up and I used the ‘Solar Eclipse Timer’ app to calculate each phase of the eclipse and what would happen at each point. It also calculated our location and told us we would be in a total solar eclipse for a minute and 43 seconds. There were four contact points during the eclipse, C1, C2, C3 and C4. C1 lasted for about an hour and 15 minutes beginning at 10:15. During this phase, the moon began to cover the sun. Not much was happening at this point, but we were all excited as we watch the moon move. We passed around homemade caramel popcorn and nuts, despite not being able to see anything through our safety shades. Eventually we removed our glasses and took in the view around us. As the moon continued to move, we still saw the blinding light from the sun in the sky, which was becoming a waning crescent. It began to seem as though we were in the shade. Then, the light began to diminish as if we were under a thunder cloud. The light also had a green tint to it—the kind of light you may have seen if you’ve ever been close to a tornado or a coastal rainstorm. We quickly replaced our glasses as we listened to the speaker on my app give us specific instructions to “observe temperature change.” I could no longer feel the heat of the sun on my chest and the wind grew cold. “Watch for change in animal behavior,” the app announced. My uncle’s dog, Kieko, began to bark hysterically at nothing until he was shushed. Kieko went to hide in the trees until the eclipse was over.
Just as the last sliver of sun was shining, the C2 began and with it began the most eventful, cosmically supernatural but enchanting three minutes of my life. Before the eclipse I had laid out two large white sheets to capture shadow bands. These don’t occur at every eclipse and it’s hard to see them because they are so faint, but they look like dozens and dozens of very light gray snakes slithering across the ground north. They always go south to north. At the sliver we took off our shades and stared at the sheets hoping to catch a glimpse of this phenomenon. Sure enough, we saw them and it was most bizarre. The sheets looked as if someone had grabbed the edges and began ruffling them to create waves but they were completely still. After freaking out about that for about 15 seconds, we looked back at the sun with our glasses on and saw a few of ‘Bailey’s Beads,’ which occur when the last bits and pieces of the sun shine through the rough surface of the moon bursting through the craters and valleys like little dew droplets of fire. The app announcer told us to remove our glasses and we caught what is called the diamond ring where the last fraction of the sun glints off the moon and creating an image that bears an astounding likeness to a celestial diamond ring, like a god’s proposal. The ring around the moon was faint but still a ring and then a giant white light formed what would be the diamond. That faded and we looked around to see ourselves in darkness. It was as dark as it would be if the timer were about the 15 minutes before sunrise. The horizon seemed to be at sunrise point in every direction. All the faraway clouds had a little bit of yellow on their underbellies and it was pink just above the tree-line. Everyone was in complete shock and awe. Some were silent and some just continually repeated “holy smokes” due to lack of words. Even now I cannot explain the feeling. It was so cold but nobody cared, we were embracing each other, smiling and laughing like children. At this point, we discussed what we had seen–reliving the previous events and hoping for a bigger ring, more beads and more of those wild shadow snakes. We got it all.
“That was a once in a lifetime event. I had no idea how much was involved, the effects, the parts and details of the eclipse until we saw and experienced them. You can’t get this feeling on Facebook Live. You can feel everything,” said Mark Lords, another member of my group of observers. “It got dark enough for the solar (powered outdoor) lights to come on.”
The solar eclipse experience was unreal and literally out of this world. We were in a sort of fairy-tale daze for most of the day until we decided to drive back at about 3:20 p.m. The reporters had predicted traffic delays on the drive home and they were correct. Our three hour drive turned into eight with a couple of stops along the way. Traffic was horrendous and there were more than 12 accidents on our original route according to Google Maps causing us to chart a new one. Nevertheless, it was all worth it and I would be willing to go chase the next eclipse. The next couple in the U.S. are in 2024 and 2045, both with decently large totality zones, according to the South Idaho Press Newspaper.