Monday, August 21, 2017

Totality Beside a Nebraska Cornfield!

North on Highway 75 - Original destination: north of Hiawatha, Kansas. Nothing but rain across the entire northern horizon.

It rained most of the way and it did not look promising for seeing any phase of the eclipse.  But once I had chosen the spot to watch from, no matter how hopeless it looked at the time, a hole opened in the clouds above me and I was able to witness the entire eclipse!

If I looked through the magic glasses, about 1/3 of the sun was eclipsed.  When I put the magic glasses over my phone, all I got was this!

The country road southeast of Pawnee City, Nebraska.  This is looking due west a bit before totality.
Totality!  My photography skills and eclipse gremlins did everything in their power to prevent me from getting any photos.

Same view to the west at totality.  The brightest light to the left is the farmer's mercury light that came on well before totality.
Looking north at totality.

West just seconds before totality.

Due east at totality.

I thought I had planned for everything in my personal 2017 Total Eclipse Viewing Sojourn: viewing glasses, camera, coffee, cash and smart phone so I could monitor the weather and have access to Google Maps in case I had to try to change destinations due to cloud cover/rain. I filled the tank last night and left very early to get to a viewing site well ahead of time. Still struggling with the realities of the smart phone, I did not realize that out on the road I would not have access to a 4G connection. That meant no maps and no Doppler radar screen.  All I could do was desperately text my children and hope one or both of them were screwing off at work long enough to answer my texts! Luckily, my son answered. In highly technical terms I could understand, he texted: You're out in the boonies. No internet.  (I am sure he was diligently working hard and just happened to check his phone...)

I asked him to check the Doppler radar for the Hiawatha area. He sent me a screen shot. Not good.  I could also see the storm to the northeast. I frantically texted him to find a Nebraska town northwest of Hiawatha that was in the path of totality, and to send directions to it from the intersection of Hwy 75 and Hwy 36.  That is how I came to be on a country road in Nebraska, next to a cornfield southeast of the dapper little town of Pawnee City, Nebraska. Though the sky never fully cleared overhead, there was a "hole" in the clouds right above me and I was able to watch the entire eclipse. I saw the entire event!

Something strange was interfering with my camera and my phone. It is a wonder that I got any photos at all. It was one odd and unusual thing after another. None of the photos will win any awards - but they are good enough for me.  It was perplexing the way the electronics of my phone and my camera were misfiring - for want of a better word.

But, it happened.  I witnessed a total eclipse of the sun - in my lifetime - not far from home. And it was marvelous and mysterious to consider the unimaginable "coincidence" that the moon is the exact size and at the exact distance for a total eclipse to occur. At the instant of totality, the entire sky overhead goes black and the sun's corona bursts into view. I removed the crazy glasses and looked at the magnificent corona flaming outward. A bright star was also immediately visible. I made a slow 360 degree survey of the strange colors in the sky on the horizons that I could see. I snapped some quick photos for posterity.  I was so caught up in the experience that I forgot to look for the wavy shadows.

It was over in a heartbeat but I was thrilled that I had witnessed such a rare event. Once again Kansas serves up a spectacle that I did not have to cross the world in order to see - though technically I was in Nebraska.  I was less than 2 hours from home. Close enough.

Post script: Thank you Son for your remote navigating! You saved the day.