Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Total Eclipse was fantastic!!!

About two years ago I called my childhood friend of 60+ years to tell him to put August 21, 2017 on their calendar. I was going to stay at his place for three or four days. Then because he was also into astronomy while we were growing up, I told him why ~ the best total eclipse of our lives was going to be centered about twenty miles from his house south of St Louis! As kids we saw the sun with a huge chunk missing during the June 20, 1963 eclipse as it passed near the Montreal part of Canada.... since then viewing a total eclipse was on my bucket list. This was a gimme!

During that time we planned everything possible, including scouting and confirming four or five sites within about 200 miles west of his place should the weather get bad for the eclipse.  Many local schools on the center path would not let us on their property to set up photography equipment and telescopes during the eclipse ~ it was on a school day.  I even told Principals that I would offer my experience as a member of  NJAA and a trained volunteer for Project Astro... respectfully they declined my offer. I think I was just asking too early.
Undeterred, I set out plotting places like state and local parks. Some wanted entry money and all warned me that I could expect huge crowds there.... ugh!!! But we had a plan, even if I had to park next to a gas station!.

Time went by fast and about a month  before the big day I got a call from my buddy. He asked me if I was married to the places we came up with so far. I got an uneasy feeling in my gut... was he going to tell me something came up and I couldn't stay there?

Instead he told me his daughter had a girl friend that lives on a farm and we could go there and view from within it's open spaces. He gave me the address and as soon as I could I looked it up on Google Maps ~ Wow! ~  We were going to be almost on top of the eclipse path dead-center as it wizzed through DeSoto, Missouri!

That made the rest of my month exciting. My only real concern was the history of the weather near St Louis in August. All data showed about 50-70% chance of rain was likely. Ok, so we still had our back up plan. The night before the eclipse the TV said there were 70% chance that it would rain so we packed up his truck and decided to take the chance with the farm in the morning.
When I woke up, I immediately got my Radar App going on my phone. Oddly enough all the clouds were gone and the radar showed nothing in the sky where we were going. Now we had to deal with the traffic... it's always something!
We headed out early for the half hour drive expecting it to become hours. Instead, we were lucky as there was only moderate traffic out of St Louis, so we got to the farm early.

After the introductions, I was told that about 15 other people were expected to come there as well... totaling about 25, including the kids and two dogs. Soon after I set up my new iOptron SkyTraker Pro and camera I relaxed. Having heard all the professional advice warning every "newbie" to take time to enjoy the changes in the environment and not bury their head in a camera, I decided that I would minimize my shooting to sense the moment as our spot had about 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality and I was going to use it all!

I did take a few shots of the partial but I wasn't happy with the results as I couldn't seem to get a sharp focus on my Nikon's live-view screen. What I did want to get was the Corona and the "Diamond Ring". Then just before totality I noticed the security lights were on, the roosters were crowing, the temperature dropped, the bull was uneasy, and a cricket or two decided to join the fun as the dark shadow swallowed us up. The kids and adults were cheering and clapping as well as murmuring during the awe of the moment. 

I have checked it off of my bucket list and here is what I took.