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National eclipse encore

by William J. Bechaver

Eclipse begins over Walsenburg.
Photo by Ruth Orr

EARTH — Well, the astronomical event of the year finally arrived, and the National Total Solar Eclipse lived up to all the hype and expectations on Monday.

Viewing conditions were mostly favorable in our circulation area. I hope everyone enjoyed a clear and safe view of the event. I decided to travel to Atchison, Kansas, to view the event in its totality.

The day started off mostly clear, with high clouds, but ominous storms were building in the west. There were actually a couple of periods of rain as the event approached, with spells of clearing and sunshine in between.

Not familiar with Kansas weather patterns, I was ready to travel to where viewing conditions were most favorable.

Then, as the event was to begin, the sun came out, and promised to provide some periodic viewing opportunities. Unfortunately, that was not to be from our viewing point, so we decided to move across the river, into Missouri. But the rains followed us, obscuring all viewing opportunities entirely.

As we awaited the moment of totality, it seemed to be more clear north of Atchison, so we headed out once again, with the big moment approaching, and our chances of direct viewing becoming doubtful.

Surrendering to our climatic fate, we pulled into a solemn cemetery, to enjoy the moments of darkness that were about to descend.

Then, with great fortune, the clouds above began to thin, as the world around was shrouded in darkness. It was an eerie few minutes as daylight was staved off by midday twilight. The night amid day was completely silent.

Then, just as suddenly, the clouds to the west began to brighten, as the shadow was moving off to the east, and the sun was returning, the brighter edge of the shadow moving toward us, returning light to the world.

The birds began to sing as if it was early dawn, and above, the clouds broke and we could see the brilliant hairline edge of the sun shining brightly as it emerged from beneath the moon.

From that point on, we were treated with favorable views of the rest of the eclipse event, but I noticed the increase of traffic on the highway. Everyone else was returning south following totality, and completely missing the following hour and a half of favorable viewing of the rest of the eclipse. For us, from that point on, viewing was almost completely uninterrupted. So, as the eclipse event from start to totality was almost totally lost to the storm, from totality to conclusion, we had quite a favorable view, as most had given up, incorrect in their assumption that totality was the conclusion of the event, and not the midpoint. Now, with the moon’s big encounter behind it, the encore is still to come.

On the night of Thursday, August 24, the moon will lie near mighty Jupiter in the evening sky. So, as the sun sets, far now to the west of its encounter with the moon, look for the nice pairing of the moon and the largest planet in the solar system. The next evening, note how far past Jupiter the moon has moved during the course of the day.

Then, on Tuesday, August 29, the moon and Saturn will make a nice twosome in the evening sky, following sunset, until the pair sets just around midnight. Again, the following night, you can see how far the moon progresses in a day, and look to the west, and find Jupiter, to see how far the moon has moved during the week. Note also, how high it is at sunset, and how far it has moved from its removal of the sun from our daylight sky! Thanks for the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities. William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE: Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

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