Eclipsed

Me, viewing eclipse

With all the pre-eclipse coverage, I somehow initially didn’t grasp there’d be much to see here in Albany, NY, quite far from the totality band. But the map in The Economist Saturday showed we’d get about 2/3 of it. So then my wife and I started scrambling for viewing options. By now it was too late to obtain the needed glasses (one risks eye damage looking directly at an eclipse without special protection). And most venues with eclipse activities were already fully booked.

We decided to try our luck at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, across the river in Troy, offering free glasses. The hoo-ha was scheduled to begin at 1:22 PM; we arrived about 40 minutes before, and there was already a huge line snaking around the building. Within a short time it was twice as long. They had 400 pairs of glasses, and we did get one. Our neighbor and acquaintance Heidi Newberg (an RPI astrophysicist) was there, helping to instruct the crowd. (I think the last time our paths crossed was actually in the Beijing subway.)

With my wife’s pinhole box

The weather report called for cloudless skies, and it started that way, so we got some good looks. My wife had also made a pinhole camera for viewing, which worked pretty well; she had decorated it with relevant poems. Unfortunately, it clouded over during the time of maximum eclipse, so we had only glimpses of that. Of course, we didn’t get real darkness, but during the maximum it did seem eerily dimmer than it should have been on a cloudy afternoon. The whole experience was pretty cool.

We get solar eclipses like this only due to a freakish confluence of facts: the moon is vastly smaller than the Sun, but it’s far closer to Earth, so when the two line up, it just happens that their profiles exactly match, producing the dramatic effect.

My wife Therese

Well. The next solar eclipse will occur in April, 2024, and with that one, we’ll get the Full Monty quite near us. I’m already praying for clear skies 😉

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2 Responses to “Eclipsed”

  1. DAN FAREK Says:

    HI FRANK:
    I AM HAPPY TO HEAR THAT YOU & YOUR WIFE WERE ABLE TO SEE IT!
    DOWN HERE ON THE TEXAS GULF COAST IT WAS FULL SUN.
    DAN

  2. Doug Smith Says:

    Having seen two, 97% in 1970 and 88% this week, I’ll offer two opinions. 97% was very interesting but nothing like 100%. What you saw through glasses was not all that different from a crescent moon. The neat part was the weird light quality and shadow shapes. You don’t need glasses to enjoy that. 88% was hardly noticeable unless you were looking for it. It reminded me of ‘light before the storm’ which probably allowed many of my neighbors who didn’t listen to the TV news to miss the whole thing. My friends drove to 100% area and sat in traffic for five extra hours. You make your choice. My mother-in-law lives in the 100% area for 2024 so we could get free lodging. She’ll be 110 that day; we’ll be 78. I’ll let you know how that works out.

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