When I was a young, primary school boy I was very keen on Astronomy. Even at that very early age I knew that I wanted to be in Cornwall on August 11th 1999 to witness the only total solar eclipse that would be visible from the United Kingdom in my lifetime. Sure enough, I went to Cornwall that day, but all I saw was the heavy clouds getting dark, and the heavy clouds getting light again. It was eery, but not what I had hoped for.
It has taken 60 years for that boyhood desire to be fulfilled. Today, near Grand Island, Nebraska in the US, I witnessed a total solar eclipse. The forecast had been for heavy cloud, high probability of rain, and thunderstorms or worse. However, the weather turned out bright and with largely clear skies, giving us a perfect view of the eclipse from 1st contact all the way through to the end.
It was stunning. I have seen plenty of photographs and knew what to expect, but the reality was mind blowing. The eery low light, not quite like dusk, in the minute or so before totality, and then the amazing sight of a glowing black sphere in the sky - so much more intense than any photograph seems to be able to reproduce. It took my breath away, and was quite emotional. In the darkness stars were visible (Venus was particularly bright), but all around the horizon, in all directions (and the flat land of Nebraska gave us 360 degree views) the colours of sunset glowed brightly.
It was worth every minute of that 60 year wait.
The blip shows the diamond ring effect, visible at the very start and very end of totality (this was taken at the end). The extras show totality, a stage of the partial eclipse before totality and, finally, my wife's photograph of me in a very comfortable but somewhat unconventional eclipse viewing and photography pose.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III