Would you ever drive a thousand miles to see night during the day? Most people would say “no” but this summer my family said “yes”. We packed up a week’s worth of clothes and drove down to Nashville, Tennessee with the hopes of seeing nature’s most incredible phenomena, a total solar eclipse. Over a million eclipse chasers just like us also made the trip to Nashville with millions more who traveled to 13 other states along the path of totality. August 21, 2017 will be a day to remember for Americans because for the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse stretched from coast to coast. Here’s my story of traveling a thousand miles to see the moon cover the sun.
My alarm went off at 7:30 AM and remarkably, I did not roll over and go back to sleep. It was eclipse day. I had been planning this day for two years: picking an ideal viewing destination, convincing relatives to drive up from Georgia, ordering eclipse glasses, researching how and when to safely use equipment. Believe it or not, eclipse chasing is a laborious hobby. Several hours later, I am sitting outside a huge science center listening to three astrophysicists from NASA talk on a stage to hundreds of people. They explain what happens during the stages of a solar eclipse and project totality in Oregon on large screens behind them. I remember hearing the terms “Bailey’s Beads” and the “Diamond Ring”, which are both related to the sun’s corona visible during totality. To a science geek like me, I was pretty much in heaven. Soon after, the first of many countdowns began. Hundreds of people all turned their heads up to see a tiny black dot begin to cover the huge orange sphere above us. Within the hour, most of the sun was gone. With a few minutes to totality, the temperature dropped twenty degrees. The sky got noticeably darker and a light wind blew the leaves on the trees. About thirty seconds before totality the sky changed colors and I witnessed the fastest sunset known to man. Another countdown began and the screaming got louder. The sky grew even darker and the sun completely disappeared. Stars came out and flocks of birds flew around confused. People screamed, pointed, laughed, cried, and just generally panicked. I heard one of my brothers start to cry and then I started to cry as well.
Trying to describe the impact a solar eclipse has on you is like trying to describe the taste of chocolate. It is nearly impossible. Hearing people talk about a total solar eclipse might cause some intrigue, but actually witnessing one blows your mind. I am already preparing for the next total American solar eclipse April 8, 2024 and I hope you will too.