Saturday, August 26, 2017

Eclipse August 21, 2017

Finally a moment where I can write about the eclipse that happened 5 days ago.

We got reservations at the Comfort Suites in Corvallis several months ago. We had first learned of the 2017 eclipse last summer when we picked up an Oregon Coast travel brochure and saw an ad inviting people to come to the coast to see the eclipse. We thought it was a good idea, but upon further thought, realized that it's always cloudy at the coast, which would of course hide the entire event. So we moved our thinking to Corvallis where we were certain there would be an event at Oregon State University. Most hotels were not taking reservations more than a year in advance, so I started looking in August 2016. At that time most places were already sold out, but other hotels did not take reservations more than 6 months or 8 months out, so I was able log on later and get the Comfort Suites that way. It was a lot...about $400/night but for a room that sleeps 6.

Since the eclipse was at 10am-ish on a Monday, we chose to arrive on Saturday. This helped us avoid traffic and enjoy the events at OSU.

The fire emergency manager in Clackamas County kept emailing us county residents saying there was going to be horrific traffic, no gas, no groceries, etc. and that we should just stay home since the Portland area was going to see something like 90% or 95% coverage anyway. In hindsight, this tell us that the emergency manager has never actually seen a total eclipse, or he would not have made a statement like that. As it turns out, anything less than totality, including 99.5%, is NOT THE SAME EVENT. But I didn't know that until 10:18 am on Monday morning. I just knew I wanted to be there.

Traffic south to Corvallis was quite easy. Corvallis itself also did not have a huge influx of visitors. There were certainly visitors as evidenced by the restaurants being full, but there was no traffic gridlock and all the gas stations had gas. But, there were more California license plates than Oregon license plates at this point.

We got a kick out of the sliding doors at Trader Joe's that were decorated for the eclipse: see the sun slip behind the moon.

Trader Joe's also announced they would be closed on the Monday from 10-11am so their employees could watch. I thought that was nice. I wondered how the hotels handled it with their staff, but I didn't ask.

The events at OSU were minimal. The kids made "solar cookies" which were cookies decorated with solar flares, sun spots, etc.

And then they stood in line to look at some meteorites, but when they saw it was a much longer line to actually touch the meteorites, they decided that just looking was enough.

Some interior shots at OSU inside a couple different lounges.

Libby liked OSU and Corvallis and said she'd like to live there someday.

On the morning of the eclipse, we had to check out of the hotel. I think I chose to do that due to the expense of the hotel and because Mike already had to take the day off work Monday and I probably didn't want him to take Tuesday too. If I had to do it over I might go ahead and spend the money for another night. But really it wasn't bad the way we did it either. 

I woke up at 6am and kind of had to drag everyone else out of bed. Then I practically ran up and down the halls at the hotel yelling ECLIPSE DAY IS HERE! but really I just did that to everyone in the elevator as I was going up and down from the breakfast room. No one was all that amused at 6am though one person did comment that we'd all been planning this for a year.

I meant to leave the hotel at 7am but I think we got out around 8am instead. We had no trouble getting to OSU and getting a parking space in the structure. The viewing area was the football field, which was full, but not bad at all. OSU was expecting at least 6000 people but I don't think that many showed up.

Here is a nice video that someone made showing the crowd at OSU. I could not find myself in the video, in case you are looking. But this is definitely what it was like.

We were sitting behind these guys. This photo was taken at 9:47am (30 minutes before totality) and I had to adjust the exposure for what you see here. The guys on the right are making pinhole shadows with their hands.

We had learned only days before the eclipse that among the eclipse mysteries that scientists are still trying to solve, one of those is something called "shadow bands" which is waves/wavelengths of light that appear in the 60 seconds before totality. The radio host said these are like little rainbows when viewed against a white sheet, but that since they are on the ground, that one should set up a white sheet and video camera and then focus on the sky only so that one does not miss the eclipse.

We did not set up video and did not have a white sheet, so had to do this fight between looking at the ground and then looking at the sky. It was kind of intense because the crowd starting cheering and hollering a good 2 minutes before totality.

One minute before totality, those guys in front of us started looking at the ground and pointing, so I knew they could see the shadow bands. Mike and I stood up and tried to see them too. Mike could see them; I could not. Mike said that it looked like snakes on the ground, and then a few seconds later the snakes became rushing water. I saw nothing...possibly because I had already looked directly at the sun (accidentally) a couple of times and my eyes were kind of messed up by then. Or maybe it's like those 3D pictures that were popular at the mall back in the '90s and I could never see those either.

I *think* Mike took this photo right about when the bands were appearing and I was trying to see them.

There are a couple of shadow bands videos on YouTube but they are not very interesting.

Anyway, I gave up on seeing the shadow bands and so I just put my glasses on and stared at the sky for the remaining seconds so I could see the last bit of the sun go away. When the sun goes away, your glasses go dark, so then everyone rips off their glasses and stares directly up at the eclipse.

So here's the thing. All the images and warnings and everything gives the impression that the total eclipse is this gradual thing and is somehow like a partial eclipse, just bigger or more. As if the things are related.

Like this:

Or this:

But that is not what a total eclipse is like. It is not like "a partial eclipse but a little more."

A partial eclipse and a total eclipse are not the same thing, and it's like comparing apples and elephants.

A partial eclipse is just the pre-show that you're looking at while you're waiting around for the actual show to start. It's the clown before the lion tamer.

The sun is SO bright, that even when 99.5% eclipsed, to your naked eye it still looks like the regular sun. So imagine you're a farmer, like 5000 years ago, and you see it's getting dark out, but you look up at the sun and it's actually still there and it doesn't look anything like those orange pictures in the ad banners above.

But then moon completely eclipses the sun, and everything changes. It's immediately dark, like someone flipped a light switch. That's another clue telling you how much light the sun puts forth. and it sort of looks like this:

I say "sort of" because even though a very talented photographer took this picture, it doesn't capture what it looks like to be standing on the ground and looking up at this. So let's go back to the farmer 5000 years ago scenario. Imagine going from light to dark, and yellow blazing sun to Eye of Mordor in a split second. That's how dramatic the change is.

It's very difficult to capture because we don't look at the yellow sun without the glasses, and we don't look at the total eclipse with the glasses.

In this video the glasses (camera filter) is used, but it sort of hints at the drama. I made it start at the 45 second mark so you immediately get the drama. But as you can see it's not the same as what I described because it doesn't start with what the naked eye sees.

The next video is kind of funny because everyone else's iphone got this:
My own photo below

Which is nothing like what it was.

But this guy's iphone got a more realistic image and you can hear everyone else asking him how he did it. I posted the video because you can briefly get some perspective on the darkness and the location of the horizon.

Most YouTube videos show the thing like my photo that looks like a big flashlight, and it can be confusing if you didn't actually see it, because the audio will be things like THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THING I EVER SAW IN MY WHOLE LIFE and as the watcher you're thinking, really?

So then the video above kind of helps.

I only saw one "star" (probably a planet) and I actually looked. Maybe more stars are visible if the eclipse occurs later in the day? I don't know.

The last photo I'm sharing is this viral photo taken in Oregon, of the diamond ring effect, which is when the sun finally reappears from behind the moon and you are immediately blinded and have to run and put your glasses back on. Photo by Ted Hesser. The shot: Nikon D800, 80-400mm @ 400mm, ISO 100, f5.6, 1/200 second, no filter.

After the diamond ring and the sun slowly started coming back, most people left the viewing area. We hung around for a little bit and I picked up some paper glasses provided by OSU, for our scrapbook. This is how I know they didn't use up all 6000 glasses they ordered. Then we headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage that they had held for us. We got back to the hotel in time to watch the last of the sun reappear as we watched from the parking lot.

When we checked the map, it showed red line traffic all the way back home. So we decided to get some lunch before going home. After lunch - still all red line traffic. We also got to see the 5 South traffic backed WAAAY up. I imagine it was like that all the way to California.

We decided to stop in Woodburn at the outlet mall. It probably took us a couple hours to get to Woodburn - about twice as long as normal. We stayed in Woodburn late, til about 7 or 8pm. Still red line traffic along the 5. I actually didn't mind. To me, all that traffic meant that all those people got to see the total eclipse. And that made me really happy.

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