Did You Look at the Sun Today?

For the last few days, I’ve been a part of so many discussions about how people (you, me, anyone) would look at the sun during the eclipse today. And I just don’t get it. Why would you want to look at the sun, eclipse or no eclipse? Is it part of human nature to do the one thing you shouldn’t do, whether it’s biting a hangnail, feeding a wild animal, or edging as close as possible to a cliff?

So here’s the truth: While I have no interest in looking at the sun, part of the reason that I didn’t care about looking at the sun today is that I had a fairly big misconception about the solar eclipse.

You see, St. Louis is right on the “path of totality.” For about 2 minutes, we were due to have a total eclipse. I thought this meant that the world would be plunged into utter darkness. And I hoped my cats would do weird stuff for a few minutes, like speak in English or get along with each other.

Spoiler alert: None of this happened. Instead, I just sat on my balcony (my back to the sun) for a few minutes while the daylight grew slightly dim–like a cloudy day–and then brightened again.

Now, it’s not that I wasn’t impressed. It was pretty surreal, and no matter how anticlimactic it was, it was still something that only happens every 30-100 years. That’s pretty cool. I like rare things.

In case you want to see the riveting events of my balcony unfold, I’ll post the selfies I took below. How did you spend your solar eclipse?

before

 

during

 

after
Biddy

13 thoughts on “Did You Look at the Sun Today?”

  1. Today I played a very long, intensive, and tiring concert on the steps of the Missouri Capitol building for their eclipse celebration. I will admit that I share your ambivalence towards the celestial happenings, at first, but as the sky got darker and the sun started disappearing, I had to admit that it was pretty cool. Then, when the band took a break during totality, being able to look into space with nothing but my bare eyes and see a sight that hasn’t been seen here in over 100 years, that was pretty awesome. Not to mention doing that with several thousand people all gathered in the same spot for the same purpose: marveling at our universe and our place in it.

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    • Jeff: Thanks for sharing! I like the way you put it–in a way, regardless of the event, it’s powerful to do the same thing as thousands of other people (and many more across the country.

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  2. I have memories of watching a total eclipse when I was in elementary school so my level of excitement wasn’t as high as some of my friends. I had to spend in the whole in a car so the eclipse had the effect of altering our usual route on I-59 to I-57/55 to avoid Nashville’s “eclipse traffic”. We still encountered a lot of traffic around Mount Vernon but at least the Department of Transportation amused is with the many signs reminding drivers not to try to take of the eclipse while behind the wheel 🙂

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  3. I’m not really into astronomy, but I about 5 minutes before it started to happen I went out to the parking deck at my companies headquarters to see it, there were a few hundred people there, passing around the protective glasses, looking up, we didn’t have a full eclipse, but it was just a sliver uncovered. I think its one of those things where if your in the path, why not go and see it, but I wouldn’t make a special trip over it. I did notice there was an area where about 8 people had setup camp chairs to work outside and also experience it.
    On the other side I can think that many people wouldn’t get our annual trek to Gencon, in just the same way.
    To each their own.

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  4. I made a last minute trip about 45 minutes away to a friend’s cabin in the woods (which sounds like the start of a bad horror movie) to go watch the eclipse, and it was quite the experience. The cabin was a short golf cart ride away from an open field with a great panaroma on a normal day, and it was a fantastic spot to experience a total eclipse. Everyone had their own pair of special glasses, but there was also a DIY pinhole projector and a fancy telescope present, both of which were really neat to look through and see the slow movement of the moon over the sun. The telescope thing made the image super crisp (while still remaining safe to view), and was one of the unexpected highlights of the day.

    In the few moments leading up to the big show, it got super quiet, followed by a chorus of cicadas that sounded like someone had switched the “on” switch to a nature soundtrack. During the 2 minutes of dusky light while the sun was covered, we looked around for planets (2 were easily visible), and there were countless exclamations from everyone present about how cool it was. It was so much cooler than I expected, and I’m so very glad to have made the trip out to see it today–my previous plan had been to just go outside of my building during the height of the action, which would have been a much different experience.

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    • Katy: Using the special telescope sounds pretty cool. And I like the way nature responded to the phenomenon. When the eclipse happened in my area, I saw a lot of strange creatures put on glasses to stare at the sun.

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  5. Jamey,

    My girlfriend and I planned to meet in town and get the glasses handed out by the Smithsonian Institute. By the time we arrived, the line was a quarter-mile long, and I had lost interest. We chatted for a few minutes toward the back and the line and then realized that the line was moving…fast. So, we hopped in line and about 8 min later, we had a pair of the glasses with the lenses made of a space-age polymer (there’s a throw back from my youth).

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  6. My girlfriend wore them first, and she gasped…it wasn’t feigned. When I tell you that I put them on and stared at the sun and at 1:40 (a full hour before the major event), you could already see the moon encroaching across the sun. It was pretty amazing. We grabbed lunch an then returned to an area near the National Mall handing the glasses back-and-forth until about 2:45-2:50. While we had a coverage in the low 80s, it was something I’ll never forget.

    Cheers,
    Joe

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    • Joe: It sounds like I made a big mistake in not looking at the sun! I’ll know better for next time. I’m glad you and your girlfriend had the chance to see it!

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  7. I hadn’t planned to watch at all as Atlanta didn’t get 100% coverage and there aren’t many things I hate more than traffic. I wasn’t about to drive into it and fight the traffic back out for hours. However, Chris was here on a stopover driving the trailer back from GenCon and he has a pair of the glasses and it was actually super cool. He stayed until the max coverage and we enjoyed the cool shadows and passing the glasses around. We even let some ladies we saw trying to stare at it with their unprotected eyes use our pair to take a look so they didn’t do damage to their eyes. Was surprising anyone hadn’t heard not to do that. But each of us also gasped at the first sight of it. It really looked different with the glasses.

    Hearing from folks who went to the path of totality, I do in a small way regret not doing it. It was bad timing right after GenCon. Had it not been, I may have actually gone to see it. However, we may have another chance in 2024 where it looks like it may pass over Niagra Falls the same time many of us gamers will be there for The Gathering. Now THAT would be cool. Seeing it with hundreds of friends and fellow gamers. If that is the week, I will definitely be there to experience that with people I enjoy doing other geeky things with! 🙂

    Reply

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