Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The Eclipse

I saw the shadow bands.

Near totality — and in places like Portland that got 99% of the way to totality — a kind of strobing effect happens. Seems like slightly dark lines racing across the ground. This, to me, is cool: we still don't know why shadow bands happen during an eclipse; we just know they do. The effect is hard to photograph, but it's there — and, seemingly, momentarily, everywhere. They strobed past me.

Just about an hour ago, my part of Portland got 99.4% of the sun blocked by the moon. And things got weird. Things were quieter. The sky then seem filtered: the light and the colors, on this near-clear day with only small, high, wispy clouds, seeming somehow slightly wrong. Slightly off.

And it cooled. The air around me was noticeably cooler. In totality, the temperature can drop 20° Fahrenheit; obviously we didn't drop that much, but friends in Vancouver, WA measured their temperature drop at 8°. (They also noticed that their solar panel output was significantly lower.)

The house where I live is well-blocked from the sun, with many curtains on most windows, but of course plenty of indirect light gets in — but during the eclipse, there was less. Not "needing to turn on lights" less, but less. (People posted that streetlights were turning on at 99.4% totality.)

A few times approaching peak eclipse, I went outside, with a colander and a white sheet of paper. And, looking away from the sun towards the colander's shadow cast on the paper, I saw the repeated pattern of crescent shapes — the sun, made smaller by the Earth's nearest celestial neighbor.

And I was outside at the peak that Portland had. Still plenty of sun; even 0.1% of the sun is plenty of sun. But yes, birds got noisy, apparently disrupted and annoyed by the unexpected-to-them change in the sky. Then, SE Portland being SE Portland, I heard fireworks going off. Portland didn't get THAT dark, people. And it seemed wrong just in general to do so.

This is the closest I've ever been to a total solar eclipse. I was out during a partial solar eclipse in Northern Virginia in the early 90s; I safely saw another one through a filtered telescope at University of Oregon, when I was a student there. Many friends of mine, plus family, went to where there was totality: places like Salem, and the eastern edge of Oregon. Dayton, OR, where my parents went to visit my Uncle Greg and Aunt Peg for the eclipse, apparently had 100% for about 30 seconds; they would have been on the north edge of totality. As for me, several minutes after totality, I stepped outside the house again and saw a passenger jet flying north across Portland. I thought, "Did it fly through totality? It probably did."

For many people who could get into the path, the sky darkened during the day. That's always going to be trippy. And I am so glad I saw what I got to see of it. Watching and experiencing it, I felt — more than usual, I should say — that I wanted to hug people.

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