The Eclipse Experience

In catching up on my long backlog of potential blog posts, I want to talk about my trip this summer to see the total solar eclipse.

I knew this eclipse was coming for years, but I didn’t actually make my travel plans until a few weeks before. That wasn’t the best idea as it turns out that millions of people were visiting the same small band that stretches coast to coast to see totality. But – I made it work. I booked some flights to Louisville, Kentucky, and planned to see the eclipse down in Nashville.

 

Getting to Kentucky was messy; the flight was cancelled. I almost left the airport resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to fly until the next day. At the last-minute, the American Airlines was able to book me a flight to Cincinnati, and from there I took an Uber to Louisville.

 

I had been proud of myself for coming up with the Louisville trick initially, but I had wondered whether the lack planning on my part was going to cause issues throughout the trip. Even my original shipment of eclipse glasses was cancelled and I had to rely on my second try with Amazon. Fortunately, the rest of the trip went smoothly.

 

For me living in New York City, it’s a treat to drive around with a rental car, particularly in a new and open area like in Kentucky and Tennessee. I enjoyed visiting the cities of Louisville, Bowling Green, and finally Nashville for the main event. As always, Foursquare directed me to the best places to see and eat. Louisville museums, Bowling Green shops and parks, and Nashville music were all great. Nashville got a little crowded with all the visitors, but if you’re willing to adjust and find backup plans it all works.

On the negative side was staying in Glasgow the night before. The hotels everywhere else had been booked far and wide. There’s really nothing there – and the bed I got wasn’t very comfortable. It was one of those cheap motels – but on that day they were charging a substantial premium. At least they had good wi-fi – I stayed up most of the night watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones – Beyond the Wall – and I was glued to my iPad. Particularly in that dragon fight beyond the wall at the end!

For many people, watching something like an eclipse isn’t worth it. It may just a natural phenomenon in the sky caused by the moon passing in front of the sun. But the event has a lot of historical and scientific significance. Ancient civilizations attached significance to this event – both positive and negative. Almost a hundred years ago in 1919, an eclipse was used to confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity. Because stars behind the sun are visible during a total eclipse, we can measure the effect of the sun’s gravity bending that light thus changing its position in the sky. Astronomers still gather data from eclipses to learn about the cosmos.

The eclipse itself – which I saw at Nashville’s Science Center – was a really cool communal experience. It started out as a really hot day, and as the more covered more and more of the sun it became cooler and cooler. The sun’s reflection on the ground – which appear through the leaves – become crescent-shaped (see picture). Finally, when all the light is blocked, you see what looks like a 360-degree sunset. It becomes dusk – and the crickets started coming out and chirping in the early afternoon! For a few minutes – everyone stopped an appreciated the view and the natural wonder that we had the privilege of catching firsthand.

I experience everything except one part. At the last-minute, a cloud passed over and I wasn’t able to see the moon-sun in totality. Fortunately, there’s another one nearby in 2024. Maybe I can plan that one a little further in advance!