The weekend’s solar eclipse dazzled observers throughout the U.S. and Mexico. Sky & Telescope editors and contributing editors report.
The annular solar eclipse on Saturday, October 14th, drew crowds throughout North America — despite clouds that often threatened the view. Even observers in regions far from the path of annularity experienced a partial eclipse, albeit some of them through an overcast screen.
Several Sky & Telescope editors and contributing editors watched the eclipse — below, read their reports from across the U.S. and Mexico. You’ll also find amazing images in Sky & Telescope’s online photo gallery. And don’t forget to leave your own reports in the comments!
Rio Rancho's Eclipse Celebration
In New Mexico, crowds attended Rio Rancho Astronomical Society’s eclipse event — and to everybody's delight, perfect conditions prevailed for the duration of the eclipse. Town mayor Greg Hull reveled in the experience along with more than 400 eager eclipse-viewers at the Rainbow Park Observatory — and I was there, too!
Witnessing the flurry of activity in the lead-up to the eclipse, I asked the RRAS observatory manager, Melanie Templet, how long they’d been preparing for this event. “After the 2017 eclipse, we realized we were on the centerline for this annular and we had to get organized,” Templet said, as she handed out scores of eclipse glasses to eager buyers who had lined up neatly across the lawn. "So, essentially, we've been gearing up since then," she added as she deftly juggled multiple tasks, including handling the sales of the glasses, coordinating volunteers, and ensuring that the activities table's material wasn't blowing away in the wind. As if they weren't swamped already, the local radio station KDSK, which was broadcasting live from the venue, announced on-air that the RRAS still had eclipse glasses for sale — and shortly thereafter, more people poured in to secure those coveted items . . . and stay for the show. The more the merrier!
I and my co-eclipse-watchers noted that around 10 minutes before the start of annularity, the light took on an eerie tinge, almost silvery, and there was a drop in intensity. To the delight of us all, during the first partial phases, Venus appeared directly overhead — in broad daylight!
Scott Cadwallader of the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society recorded the air temperature before, during, and after annularity with the help of the digital thermometer inside the Rainbow Park Observatory building. Before the first partial phase, at 9:15 a.m. local time, the thermometer read 60.8°F; when he checked the thermometer just before annularity at 10:28 a.m. it read 57.1°F; and, shortly after the end of annularity at 10:47 a.m., Cadwallader recorded 54.7°F. The temperature did indeed drop during the annular phase! In fact, once the eclipse was over, the temperature had risen to 70.9°F, following the natural trend of warming during the daytime hours.
After the event, RRAS President Laurie Wells told me that she thought it was “wonderful to have people who don’t know so much about astronomy get so excited about the eclipse.” She was especially thrilled to see so many children wandering among the myriad telescopes, peering through eyepieces or checking out projected images of the eclipsed Sun, and being inspired by this unique celestial event.
— Diana Hannikainen, S&T Observing Editor
Sky & Telescope Tour: New Mexico
Morning dawned in the low 40s at Sky & Telescope’s eclipse-observing site northwest of Albuquerque. Off to the south, we could see dozens of hot-air balloons stippling the sky, part of the city’s annual International Balloon Fiesta. High cirrus hung in the east, but by the time of first contact, the Sun was alone in a deep blue sky.
At the moment annularity began, a great cheer went up from the 60-plus S&T group and the few dozen others spread across the lawn in front of the Hyatt Regency Tamaya. By then, colors in the band of cottonwood trees down by the Rio Grande had become intense, as if shot with old-time, saturating Fuji Velvia film then sharpened in Photoshop. Birds became restless. As the temperature dropped, some people donned down jackets. Light levels dimmed enough for the hotel’s outside lights to come on of their own accord a few minutes before annularity.
The Moon came across the Sun from the “top,” around 12:15 or 12:30 if the Sun were a clock face. That nonintuitive direction added to the general sense of mystery, that something awesome was taking place and we were gratefully there to witness it.
— Peter Tyson, S&T Editor in Chief
Lucky View from Eugene, Oregon
I knew writing that Focal Point column in the November issue would jinx it. In the column I wrote about how difficult it is to view astronomical events in the Pacific “Northwet,” as we call it, but how satisfying it is when we overcome the odds. So of course this morning dawned mostly cloudy, and the clouds just got thicker. There was no driving out from under them this time around, either. There were a few sucker holes, though, so those of us in Eugene, Oregon, kept checking.
We caught a few seconds of the eclipse’s ingress, then nothing . . . until annularity! At just the right moment we got a gap in the clouds long enough to see the annular phase for about 30 seconds. So we didn’t get skunked! As Robert Asumendi, the president of our local astronomy club said, “It was a triumph, honestly.” For us, in mid-October, that’s exactly how it felt.
— Jerry Oltion, S&T Contributing Editor
Sky & Telescope’s Yucatán Adventure
Eclipse day dawned clear in Campeche, Mexico, but by the time the Moon started to nibble at the Sun, I was really sweating it — literally and figuratively. Our 28-strong group had endured days of sweltering heat as we’d toured the land of the Maya, and October 14th was no exception: 91°F and 87% humidity by 10 a.m.
But we were more concerned with a significant cumulus buildup in the sky above. That cloudiness provided fleeting opportunities to glimpse the eclipse’s progress without using solar filters, but it also threatened to block the upcoming 4.6 minutes of annularity entirely.
Fortunately, as the Sun’s obscuration increased, the convection-driven clouds steadily decreased enough to create a big, beautiful blue clearing overhead minutes before than main event. (I’m guessing that eclipse meteorologist Jay Anderson had interceded on our behalf from afar!)
Second contact was glorious, with a bright, elongated bead framed between merging cusps of sunlight. The temperature dropped slightly, and the greatly dimmed sunlight was evident around us. Many in our tour group were eclipse first-timers, but all of us were thrilled to witness the geometric convergence of Sun, Moon, and Earth.
All too soon, the “ring of fire” ended, and we gathered around our hotel’s poolside bar to celebrate the day’s success. But in retrospect, I’m kicking myself for not trying to spot Venus, which was 45° away from the eclipsed Sun and should have been easy pickin’s.
— J. Kelly Beatty, S&T Senior Editor
Baily’s Beads from Northwestern Nevada
My longtime eclipse-chasing partner, Brit Dave Whalley, and I had hoped to observe in central Oregon near the northern limit to maximize Baily’s Beads. But widespread cloud forced us to chase holes near the centerline in northwestern Nevada. We found a site with multiple thin spots amounting to about 15% of the sky 45 minutes before first contact. The altocumulus cloud elements never completely hid the Sun at 30× in my 80-mm APO refractor. Conditions continued to improve, and by annularity the sky was about 70% clear, with cloud on all horizons.
We observed numerous beads beginning 47 seconds before annularity — S&T had said that they would begin mere seconds before second contact for observers on the centerline. Annularity lasted 4m 27s, and it was my first symmetrical annulus (my two previous ones having been closer to the edge). After third contact, there were many beads simultaneously for 29 seconds, far too many to count.
Then it slowed down, but beads continued to appear for another three minutes, with some half-minute pauses. I thought the show was over, but I kept watching. And after a quiet minute, lunar mountains made three more. The last bead was seen 5m 32s after third contact — not remotely like the mere seconds of beads that had been predicted for centerline observers!
— Alan Whitman, S&T Contributing Editor
Cloudless Skies in Little Water, New Mexico
My family and I caught the eclipse from Little Water, New Mexico, just a few miles south of the exact center line of the eclipse path. We joined about twenty other observers from California to Colorado that had parked next to the tiny town’s only business, a gas station.
We all enjoyed cloudless skies, the alien-looking rock formations of northwestern New Mexico, and trading views of the eclipse. Other observers at the site had filtered binoculars, hydrogen-alpha refractors, and a computerized 10-inch Newtonian. I used a small reflector with a homemade “Sun funnel” projector, which gave especially clear views of Baily’s Beads at second and third contacts.
One curious effect: Despite being only a partial eclipse, we all noticed that the temperature dropped noticeably through annularity.
— Matt Wedel, S&T Contributing Editor
Annularity from San Antonio
My younger sister and I took the Amtrak train down to San Antonio, Texas, from northern Arkansas — what ended up being a 22-hour trip! But it was worth it, as it fetched us a cool 4 minutes, 20 seconds of annularity.
On the morning of, I was uneasy since mid-level clouds were in the sky and extended just north of the city while the forecast was only calling for them to mostly depart around the time of peak eclipse. Indeed, clouds prevented me from catching sight of the Sun until 8 minutes after the eclipse started, and I was immediately astonished at how much of the Moon was already visible atop the Sun. My first view was only an alluring glimpse, though: Heavy clouds persisted for the next 30 minutes. It wasn’t until an hour after the eclipse started that the clouds thinned enough to reveal the Sun continuously. At 11:30 a.m. local time, I used filtered binoculars to watch the Moon near the most prominent sunspot group (AR 3465); the group disappeared behind the lunar disk five minutes later.
Around this time, I realized that the surrounding lighting wasn’t as harsh and didn’t warm my skin as much as it had shortly before. Ten minutes before the annular phase began, the sky around the Sun was virtually cloud-free, and I was ecstatic. It seemed my pilgrimage would be a success! About that time a group of four boys showed up on top of the parking garage. Even though they were starting to goof around, I could tell the older ones were watching me and interested in what I was doing. I offered them eclipse glasses, and they readily accepted and shared the view.
Watching with the unaided eye as the celestial mechanics of our universe work in real time is always gripping. And witnessing the pitch-black Moon obscure all but a tenth of our star’s disk, leaving the rest in a nearly even ring around it, was bewitching, even eerie. I was grinning the whole time.
— Scott Harrington, S&T Contributing Editor