I remember the first solar eclipse I saw, on Monday, February 26, 1979. I was barely 8 years old.
I was at my father’s dental office after school. The sky was darker than it normally would have been, but in Arkansas we were far enough from the totality that we didn’t experience the silence of birds nor any of the other triggers that total darkness brings.
Dad told us he had a way for us to view the eclipse, and led us out to the small asphalt parking lot. In his hands he held two plain white cards, about the size of index cards. He had poked a pinhole in one, but the other was plain. With his back to the sun, Dad held the cards low enough so that we could see them. He held the pinhole card above the other. On the plain card we saw a bright crescent of light.
Unable to resist the temptation, I turned to look up at the sun.
“Don’t look at the sun, son!” Dad said. Honestly, he probably called me “honey.”
I turned back and gazed again at the tiny projected image. It looked like a drawing of a crescent moon. I had expected something more exciting. Maybe something out of Star Wars, which still had me entranced after only the first movie’s release. Instead, we saw a tiny blip of light on a white card.
Now in my mid 40’s, I will appreciate the 2017 solar eclipse more. Our son is almost twice the age I was in 1979. That and our proximity to the totality should combine to amp up his excitement, too. Part of me wishes we could be back in my home town, where the eclipse will reach 93% total eclipse.
Here in north Texas the moon will block 83% of the sun. I grabbed this image from timeanddate.com.
Despite technology’s advances since my early childhood, I will be out there with the same pinhole camera system my dad used. We will enhance the experience with a pair of solar viewing glasses my wife and I picked up during our June vacation, and I might have a solar filter for my DSLR. I will not obsess over imitating experts like “Mr. Eclipse,” Fred Espenak.
If we’re still living in Texas or Arkansas in 2024, we will be in the path of the solar eclipse’s totality. By then, our son will be attending or graduating college, and we’ll be plenty young to enjoy it. What a treat!
Below I have provided a few great links for the solar eclipse I already experienced, and the one coming soon.
Back in 1979:
Coming in 2017: