Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse: 2017

I have never seen the lawn so full. Groups of friends and entire families are sprawled across the grass starting into the sun through paper sun-filtering glasses. The sky was clear and blue. There was not a cloud to be seen. It was hot and bright: as it usually is in late August in Utah. I had been searching for eclipse glasses all last week. Today, as I walked through the lawn between classes, I finally got my hands on a pair. I am starting through them now. It is 10:35, the moon is just starting to cover the sun. Through the glasses the sky is black and the sun is a dark-glowing gold, a round coin imitating the moon’s cycles in the form of a gibbous.

I look around the lawn. More and more people pile into the courtyard. It looks like a festival without booths or performers. Organizers wind between clumps of people to distribute glasses, some walk around with giant cameras to take formal photos and videos of the event and the ever-growing crowd of spectators. Many of us out here are missing class, if class hadn’t already been canceled. Everyone is here- no one seems to be inside.

I look back at the sky again. It is now 11:00. It is 34 minutes until peak coverage. We will not have the full eclipse where we are, but we will see 92%, an impressive percentage. The moon has continued on its path across the sky. The sun grows narrower- now a crescent.

I should be in class. I am now five minutes late. I head inside and down the hall. There are only a handful of students in the room and the professor is nowhere to be seen. We received no notice of class being cancelled, yet we suspect it may have been. We wait, chatting amongst ourselves. It is now 11:15, 14 minutes until peak coverage. We now assume that the professor simply forgot to send the email. We all leave together, heading to the courtyard where we separate to find our own viewing spots.

I find a space amongst the throng of people. I divide my attention between the sky and the crowded lawn. 5 more minutes until peak coverage. The temperature is noticeably cooler. It’s still warm out, but in the matter of minutes it has gone from oven-like heat to pleasant summer evening. It begins to darken, as if I cloud has drifted across the light, but the sky remains clear; at 11:29 in the morning the world around us looks like the beginning stages of sunset- when the sun still appears high in the sky, but the angles of the setting sun alter the shadows. I look through my glasses once more. Now I can see the moon moving across the sun. It creeps on like a shadow swallowing the light.

One more minute until peak coverage. We are all looking up at the sky now. There must be a thousand of us outside in the courtyard, in the parking lot, or starting out windows of the surrounding buildings. We all peer at the shrinking crescent.

11:34 am; people begin to clap and cheer. We are at peak coverage here in the valley. An even like this one hasn’t been seen in decades. Small children, unsure of what is happening, clap and cheer along with the adults who attempt to explain the cosmic event. Perhaps in  years to come they will brag about what they saw today. A sliver of hot-golden sun breaks through the dark moon. Through the filtered glasses everything is dark, except for that bright line. We all stare for a moment- a thousand faces turned toward the sky- then groups begin to peel off, going home, to class, or lunch. By noon the courtyard is back to normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

 

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