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February 26, 1979, there was a total solar eclipse
that passed through neighbouring Washington State.
As a teenage amateur astronomer, this was a celestial event I wanted to witness. Unfortunately, I did
not have the resources to make the short trip to see the event.
38 years later, on August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse returns to my neighbourhood. I was not going to miss this one! I came up with a plan, and I was on my way!
This map shows the path of the eclipse through Oregon State, and our viewing location. We chose
to camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, which is government owned land. Camping is
free, but of course, no "facilities". We were located on BLM land east of the Painted Hills. This
is part of the Oregon High Desert, which gets little precipitation (and improves our chances
of clear skies for the eclipse). It is also in the center of totality, giving us the longest
time (approx 2 minutes) in the eclipse's totality shadow.
Our camp and eclipse viewing coordinates were 44.651127, -120.243446 . Normally, this being in the middle of nowhere, this area would be deserted; however, because of the eclipse, there was a lot of people / campers around.
Here's a view of our camp site. We took two cars and had four tents for six people.
We arrived in the late afternoon of August 20, after 11 hours on the road.
My tent is the small blue/light blue dome tent.
Of course, we had to did a bit of site maintenance, moving rocks and cow poo to get a reasonably flat area for the tent to be set up on.
After setting up camp, everyone is relaxing and eating dinner. I ate a can of cold chili.
Here you see the view to the west that
the camp site provided.
As one can see, the vegetation implies this area gets little precipitation.
The nice thing about camping in the middle of nowhere is that there are no city lights
to drown out seeing the stars and the Milky Way. The view of the night sky was thus quite
spectacular. Here is a long exposure picture of the Milky Way. The stars appear as streaks
due to the long exposure as the stars "move" due to the earth revolving around its axis.
Exposure time: 187 seconds; ISO 800; Aperture f/5; Focal Length 18mm
Being a desert environment, scorpions inhabit the Oregon High Desert. We thus went looking
for scorpions after dark. As scorpions glow a bright green under UV light, we went searching
using a blacklight flashlight. It didn't take long to find one.
We also found one wandering around our camp site. Exciting! Everybody kept their shoes inside the tent that night.
Here's my camera setup for taking the eclipse photos. It is a Canon Rebel D650 Digital SLR
with a 75-300mm lens. I've got a #11 welder's glass in front of the lens, which will be in
place for the partial eclipse, and removed for the totality period.
As I didn't know what to set the camera to (as I've never taken pictures of an eclipse before), I set the camera to automatically choose the settings. The eclipse photos were generally overexposed.
Finally, at 9:07 AM PDT on August 21, 2017, the solar eclipse begins. Starting at the top
right of the Sun, the Moon begins it's journey in front of the Sun.
Total solar eclipse at 10:20:57 AM PDT! Note to the lower left of the Sun, the planet
Mercury is visible; this was a bit of luck because the automatic settings of the camera
resulted in an overexposed picture that revealed Mercury.
My 38 year wait was over. I can check this off my list.
Here's the requisite picture of me during totality.
My impressions: the Sun's corona was a brilliant white colour. It was not as dark out as I expected it to be (it was like early twilight). The Sun seemed small; this was probably because all the pictures we see of a total eclipse are zoomed in.
As we approached totality, the temperature definitely cooled down and the ambient light was noticeably darker.
Total solar eclipse ends at 10:23:01 AM PDT. As the Sun reappears from behind the Moon,
the effect known as the Diamond Ring is seen, as captured in this picture.
I recall yelling out, "Diamond Ring!!!", when this occured and snapped the picture. I guess I was excited.
The solar eclipse ended at 11:42 AM PDT. Here is a picture in the last minutes of the
eclipse, with the Moon exiting out the bottom left of the Sun.
The show is over. Time to head for the exits.
I saw the Sun being eaten by the dragon. Not wanting the Earth to be plunged into everlasting darkness,
I yelled "let the sun be!" and hurled cow feces at the dragon, to distract and scare it off. Eventually,
the dragon relented, and let the Sun go. Here is a picture of me hurling feces at the dragon.
People of Earth: you're welcome.
At 5:50 AM, just after sunrise, there was a lineup of cars on the road beside our camp. A lot of people
were coming to see the total eclipse.
There's a lot of cars in an area that would otherwise be deserted.
Here's the gang that made the 750 km journey with me to see the eclipse. I would like to thank them
for putting up with me and my tyrannical rule over the logistics of the trip.
From L to R: Me (Chany), Nick, Pinky, Preeti, Tony, and Eddie.
With the tens of thousands of people that crowded into the area for the eclipse, the two lane highways
were jammed with everyone leaving after the eclipse. What should have been a 12 hour drive home took 16 hours.
This is Highway 26, west of Mitchell. It was like a parking lot at times.
It was a great to finally see a total solar eclipse. It was totally worth making the trip
to Oregon to see it. There is something so mystical and magical about an eclipse; I would recommend to
everyone to see at least one total solar eclipse in their lifetime.
The next total eclipse I can drive to is April 8, 2024. Am I going? We'll see.......
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about this trip or travelling in general!
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