JUMPINGSPIDER.CO.UK – blogging at its jumpiest

Despite appearances, the video (below) begins with only about 75 seconds to go before totality, so it’s already quite dark and street lights have come on. I wanted to give an idea of how quickly darkness comes to it was important to have the exposure fixed to, stop the camera trying to compensate for the falling light.

As the Sun disappears behind the Moon, the world darkens in a way that is unique to an eclipse. More house lights are coming on but with a cloudless sky and the Sun overhead there are still sharp dark shadows—something that you don’t get on a dull cloudy day or at dusk. People may not realise why but everyone can feel something abnormal is happening and the excitement rises. Look closer at the shadows and you’ll see they aren’t quite right either—round holes create crescent shaped chinks of light and the edges are slightly blurred.

As totality approaches and the sky rapidly darkens, everyone realises that they are about to witness something special.

We’re at the point of no return and the incredible thrill of seeing the diamond ring can be heard as the crowd screams in amazement. This is soon replaced with gasps as the Sun disappears completely. For 1 minute and 39 seconds everyone is in awe of the spectacle. We are staring at a jet black hole in the sky. It’s just so unnatural and so extraordinary people are moved to tears.

[someone lets off fireworks or shoots a gun at this point – hey! this is America]

All too soon the Sun finds its way around the cratered edge of the Moon and a new diamond ring appears thrilling us all once more, but growing so rapidly in brightness that, in seconds, the Sun’s power once again forces everybody to look away …until the next time—if you’re lucky enough to be in just the right place and time in this incredible Universe.

Please note: The eclipse picture is a slightly modified version by moshen on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License. I modified it slightly – made the sky slightly more blue, the moon blacker and reduced the glare from the diamond.

Turn up the sound

So what is it like to experience a Total Eclipse of the Sun?

Anyone who’s made it into adulthood will likely have seen plenty of lunar eclipses and probably a few partial solar eclipses but were you left wondering what all the fuss was about?

Update: There was a partial eclipse last week but it totally slipped my mind to even look at it – and yet I’d flown 4,500 miles to see this one – why?

Let me say straight up, if you haven’t seen a Total Eclipse, you’ll never know what it is like. But after we had briefly glimpsed the 1999 eclipse through a gap in the clouds in France …we were hooked and so we flew 4,500 miles to Helen, Georgia for August 21st 2017.

The camera’s exposure was fixed to show how the sky darkens but my main aim was to capture the reaction of everyone around. Yes, it’s an American crowd and you’d expect them to be noisy but they are genuinely awestruck with so many people moved to tears. Conditions were perfect with clear blue skies and the Sun high up.

You might expect my video to show the Sun and Moon during the eclipse but of course we’ve all seen those images and franky they are underwhelming—they don’t convey the fundamental nature of the experience. It’s possible to cover the moon with the tip of your little finger (at arms length) but to those watching it seemed as big as a fist. Photographs don’t work either because the experience is fundamentally about the changes that happen as the Moon moves inexorably into position. The sky darkens and the light transforms in a way not seen at any other time. I hope this video might encourage you to go and see one – you’ll not be disappointed – how about Texas April 8th 2024 …?

When we got back home we were curious to see how the local BBC had covered it. TV coverage in the US was unbelievably banal with warnings about keeping pets indoors “because their eyesight can get damaged too, if they stare at the sun.” Fortunately, animals aren’t as stupid as some people!

Regrettably the BBC didn’t fare much better, with the presenters looking at what was an orange crescent from the UK or a tiny bright spot outside of an airplane window declaring, “look at that.. absolutely spectacular!” – well no it really isn’t, so please stop pretending that it is. Neither the TV presenter nor studio guest (from the Royal Astronomical Society no less!) had ever actually seen a total eclipse, which was blatantly obvious from their total lack of insight. So this is my attempt to explain why people will travel the globe just to see a total solar eclipse.

It’s the middle of the day and although the camera makes it look quite sunny you can see the street lamp is already quite bright – it’s only 75 seconds before totality.


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