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A Concerto of the Spheres

 

On Monday, Aug. 21, I will be attending a concert of sorts. While sitting at a vineyard in Wyoming, I will be drinking wine, wearing goofy glasses, and watching a show rapt in what I am sure will be utter amazement. And while I can’t speak for anyone else who might attend, I can tell you in all seriousness that I personally have been waiting for this particular performance for 45 years.

At some time between this 21st-century age of digital data on demand and the 18th-century age of Diderot embarking on his ridiculously ambitious project, a seven-year-old me could often be found perusing any volume of my family’s collection of encyclopedias. And while I loved the children’s articles on optical illusions and kite-making, and the color plates of the flags of the world, what drew my interest the most was a 50-year table of future total solar eclipses.

That table vexed me. I returned to it time and again in disbelief that I would have to wait forever, or at least until 2017, for a total solar eclipse to occur in the United States — and by that time, I would be old. Adding to my frustration of such a long wait was the knowledge that the little Connecticut town in which I lived was nowhere remotely close to where the totality of that eclipse would occur. It seemed all but hopeless.

As time passed, technology sprinted, and those volumes became obsolete, and I followed the orbit of my life. Along it I found other interests, and that encyclopedic table became a forgotten obsession of childhood — or so it would seem.

On the morning of June 8, 2004, I woke my family before sunrise. We drove to Roxbury Airport — a point near our town that has both the highest elevation and an unobstructed view. To my surprise, it turned out that I was not the only one with the idea of heading there. When we arrived at that antiquated airport, now a farmer’s field, it was filled with members of the Astronomical Society of New Haven and their solar-filtered telescopes. We were all there for the same reason: to view an event that had last occurred in 1882: the Venus Transit.

As the sun rose, our spirits fell a bit. It appeared that New England weather, a constant bane to amateur astronomers, was again not co-operating: a cover of clouds had moved in to obscure the Sun and the Transit.

Then, suddenly, the clouds broke — and an incredibly rare confluence of time, angle, haze, and elevation intersected in just the right way. We all stood there — I, my wife and son, and seasoned astronomers from the ASNH — dumbstruck as we were able to view with naked eye a rising Sun bearing a shadow of Venus as it made its 122 year awaited transit across the Sun’s disk.

That morning at Roxbury Airport rekindled my childhood fascination with astronomy. I joined the ASNH. I and my son spent many hours behind the giant telescopes that Yale University had entrusted to their care. In 2012, I was with the ASNH again to view the second Venus Transit — the last one until December 2117.

But despite my re-found interest in astronomy, I had honestly forgotten about my long-awaited solar eclipse of 2017. Yet today, I and my family live in Wyoming – a short two-hour drive to Table Mountain Vineyards and the path of totality. There were many things that led us to Wyoming, not the least of which was the descent of Connecticut into an absolute, raving, socialist fever dream — the criteria I used when choosing Wyoming were political and economic.

But still, I must confess, I do find it awe-inspiring how objects and events have a way of aligning.

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Members have made 47 comments.

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  1. Member

    Great story. If I remember correctly, I think I’m somewhere close to the line of being able to see it.

    • #1
    • July 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm
    • 2 likes
  2. Member

    As best I can read the map, we won’t get totality at the house, but we will at the office 15 miles away.

    • #2
    • July 15, 2017 at 5:21 pm
    • 3 likes
  3. Member

    When I was a Boy Scout we drove to North Carolina and camped in the Joyce Kilmer Forest. We weren’t in the umbra but we were close. What I had not anticipated was the way the birds all started singing their goodnights and settled down for the night at two o’clock in the afternoon. The forest was astoundingly quiet at the full extent of the eclipse.

    There was a member of the troop who was three years older than me, who was our leader for the projections we did of the eclipse. He ended up with a PhD in astronomy.

    I saw the Transit of Venus from the lawn of the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis. There were several hundred people there, led by the local astronomy club. A really cool gathering.

    We are headed to St. Louis to watch this eclipse with kinfolk who live there.

    • #3
    • July 15, 2017 at 5:52 pm
    • 5 likes
  4. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    Great story. If I remember correctly, I think I’m somewhere close to the line of being able to see it.

    Thanks, JM. As the date gets closer, the media will be all over it. You’ll find out soon enough.

    • #4
    • July 15, 2017 at 6:22 pm
    • 2 likes
  5. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    As best I can read the map, we won’t get totality at the house, but we will at the office 15 miles away.

    Take the day off! Thanks for reading, Randy.

    • #5
    • July 15, 2017 at 6:23 pm
    • 3 likes
  6. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    MJBubba (View Comment):
    There was a member of the troop who was three years older than me, who was our leader for the projections we did of the eclipse.

    I was hoping to have my own homemade projector ready, but I’m not going to have time.

    MJBubba (View Comment):
    I saw the Transit of Venus from the lawn of the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis. There were several hundred people there, led by the local astronomy club. A really cool gathering.

    I’ll bet. It was a really cool event.

    Thanks for reading, MJ.

    • #6
    • July 15, 2017 at 6:25 pm
    • 3 likes
  7. Member

    We already have our glasses. The center of the path is directly over my town of Mt. Pleasant SC. We will be the last to see it in the States. All the hotels have been booked for a year.

    • #7
    • July 15, 2017 at 6:27 pm
    • 2 likes
  8. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    We already have our glasses. The center of the path is directly over my town of Mt. Pleasant SC. We will be the last to see it in the States. All the hotels have been booked for a year.

    We tried booking a hotel about a year out. We got the booking and then immediately got a call back from the hotel to cancel our reservation. Someone had figured out what the date was and wanted to rescind the regular rate we were offered.

    Have fun, PH, and thanks for reading.

    • #8
    • July 15, 2017 at 6:31 pm
    • 1 like
  9. Thatcher

    Thanks for the info: I get 2 minutes 38 seconds of totality.

    • #9
    • July 15, 2017 at 7:02 pm
    • 3 likes
  10. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Chuckles (View Comment):
    Thanks for the info: I get 2 minutes 38 seconds of totality.

    You’re going to get almost double what the vineyard is going to get.

    Have fun. Thanks for reading.

    • #10
    • July 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm
    • 2 likes
  11. Member

    Cool. We are headed an hour north of Boise for that event. Combining it with camping and river rafting and the obligatory whiskey under the stars times.

    • #11
    • July 15, 2017 at 7:38 pm
    • 4 likes
  12. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Cool. We are headed an hour north of Boise for that event. Combining it with camping and river rafting and the obligatory whiskey under the stars times.

    Whiskey. Approved. Have a good time.

    Thanks for reading, Doc.

    • #12
    • July 15, 2017 at 8:36 pm
    • 1 like
  13. Member

    http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/path_through_the_US.htm

    We’re spending the night of August 20th in Gillette Wyoming (which was about as close as I could find a motel a couple months ago), on our way back from two weeks in the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park. Plan (pending weather/cloud forecasts) is to head about 2-and-a-half hours south early the next morning to get into the path of totality, some where along I-25 between Douglas and Glendo.

    I’m a little worried about traffic on the two-lane road from Gillette, so I’ll be dragging the kids out of bed very early that morning.

    I saw the Annular eclipse in 1994.

    If I miss this one, there another in North America in 2024.

    And if I make it to age 137, there’s one in 2099 where the centerline of the path of totality crosses a couple hundred yards from the building where I work. Although I’d hope I’d be retired by then.

    • #13
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:51 am
    • 4 likes
  14. Member

    I’m going to be somewhere along the path of totality in the south east . I won’t know for sure where exactly I will be as it’s going to based on the weather. If I have to chase it all the way into the Midwest so be it…

    • #14
    • July 16, 2017 at 7:28 am
    • 4 likes
  15. Reagan

    Our mountain home in Lake Toxaway, NC is directly in the path of totality and we can see the Pisgah Astonomical Research Institute from our back deck. Apparently high level NASA officials will be at PARI to witness the event. The whole region is wildly eclipse-happy this summer so I sure hope it doesn’t thunderstorm that day! (Just knocked on wood.).

    Not sure yet how many family members and friends will be staying with us that weekend but as it gets closer I’ll let you guys know. If nothing else maybe some Rico members could plant your lawn chairs on our driveway that Monday instead of along a crowded highway. Talked to someone on our local planning committee and they think there may be 100K people lined up on the edges of highways around here, and security will be elevated so people don’t come into private communities and block all the roads. Question will be how long will the traffic be backed up on our area’s winding mountain roads after the Path of Totality heads down to SC and out to sea?

    • #15
    • July 16, 2017 at 9:18 am
    • 2 likes
  16. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    some where along I-25 between Douglas and Glendo.

    Every time I see a sign for Glendo, I hear in my head MST3K’s Tom Servo saying “GLEN-dooooo.”

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    If I miss this one, there another in North America in 2024.

    Yeah, the table in that old encyclopedia didn’t extend that far. I’ll have to make sure to catch that one as well.

    If you end up passing through Cheyenne, let me know.

    Thanks for reading, Miffed.

    • #16
    • July 16, 2017 at 10:29 am
    • 1 like
  17. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Kozak (View Comment):
    I’m going to be somewhere along the path of totality in the south east . I won’t know for sure where exactly I will be as it’s going to based on the weather. If I have to chase it all the way into the Midwest so be it…

    Have fun. Thanks for reading, Kozak.

    • #17
    • July 16, 2017 at 10:30 am
    • 3 likes
  18. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    The Other Diane (View Comment):
    Our mountain home in Lake Toxaway, NC is directly in the path of totality and we can see the Pisgah Astonomical Research Institute from our back deck.

    That’s convenient.

    The Other Diane (View Comment):
    If nothing else maybe some Rico members could plant your lawn chairs on our driveway that Monday instead of along a crowded highway.

    And if any Rico members want to hold a mini-meetup at the vineyard (linked above), then I’m sure that they still have tickets available.

    Thanks for reading, Diane.

    • #18
    • July 16, 2017 at 10:33 am
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    Just got back from my favorite watering hole for brunch after church. They are having a eclipse party on their big deck. $35 for all you can eat barbecue, 2 drinks , a tote and t- shirt. 12/4. It is in walking distance. See you there.

    • #19
    • July 16, 2017 at 10:44 am
    • 2 likes
  20. Member

    I just bought my eclipse glasses at Walmart for $1.

    • #20
    • July 16, 2017 at 11:02 am
    • 3 likes
  21. Thatcher

    Nice article, Rick.

    • #21
    • July 16, 2017 at 11:55 am
    • 2 likes
  22. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    Nice article, Rick.

    Thank you, Randy. And thanks for reading.

    • #22
    • July 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm
    • 1 like
  23. Member

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Combining it with camping and river rafting and the obligatory whiskey under the stars times.

    If the sun goes dark, whatever the time might be, it’s time for whiskey. I mean technically. Right?

    • #23
    • July 16, 2017 at 1:27 pm
    • 5 likes
  24. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    Combining it with camping and river rafting and the obligatory whiskey under the stars times.

    If the sun goes dark, whatever the time might be, it’s time for whiskey. I mean technically. Right?

    It’s sunset somewhere.

    Thanks for reading, Boss.

    • #24
    • July 16, 2017 at 2:12 pm
    • 1 like
  25. Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):
    As best I can read the map, we won’t get totality at the house, but we will at the office 15 miles away.

    Go to the office. Totality is like nothing you have ever seen. It is awesome, it is soul-shattering. Don’t take photos. Just see it.

    I’ve done 3 totals (France 1999, 1 minute; Eastern Mediterranean 2006, 2 minutes; Iwo Jima 2009, 6 minutes) . Trust me on this.

    Also have seen transits of Venus 2004 (local) and 2012 (Kauai) , of Mercury 2006 (Maui) , Annular eclipses in Madrid 2oo5 and Utah 2012 . Numerous lunars.

    None of this compares to a total solar. A partial solar does not even come close. You’re not in the Opera house, you’re on the sidewalk.

    I’ll be in Wyoming too, near Lusk (1:52). I chose Wyoming for having the lowest probability of clouds anywhere on the track.

    See It.

    • #25
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:29 pm
    • 6 likes
  26. Member
    Rick Poach Post author

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    I’ll be in Wyoming too, near Luck (1:52).

    If you mean Lusk, then that’s just a little over an hour from the vineyard. If you don’t have other plans and don’t mind the drive, then consider going.

    Thanks for reading, DR.

    • #26
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:38 pm
    • 1 like
  27. Member

    Rick Poach (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    I’ll be in Wyoming too, near Luck (1:52).

    If you mean Lusk, then that’s just a little over an hour from the vineyard. If you don’t have other plans and don’t mind the drive, then consider going.

    Thanks for reading, DR.

    Hi Rick

    Thanks for the invite. I know from experience to take things easy that day. Observing a Total Solar is a little demanding and emotional. We will be in the parking lot of our hotel in Lusk, which I booked by luck; the first day that reservations were open for August 20, hotel rooms flew off the shelves. I was lucky to get this one.

    • #27
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:53 pm
    • 2 likes
  28. Member

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    Don’t take photos. Just see it.

    This is important. I wasted my single eclipse experience in 1979 by taking photos rather than just experiencing it. Don’t do that.

    • #28
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:54 pm
    • 1 like
  29. Thatcher

    MJBubba (View Comment):

    When I was a Boy Scout we drove to North Carolina and camped in the Joyce Kilmer Forest. We weren’t in the umbra but we were close. What I had not anticipated was the way the birds all started singing their goodnights and settled down for the night at two o’clock in the afternoon. The forest was astoundingly quiet at the full extent of the eclipse.

    I remember a partial eclipse when I was still living in Wyoming. (a really long time ago…I was 18) I’d just finished the morning milking, and I was putting hay in the feeders. I saw all the birds fly back into the big pine trees in my mother’s yard, and all the cows went back into their sleeping shed. It didn’t last long, and as the light began to return all the birds and cows just resumed their morning routines. Weird…

    • #29
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:56 pm
    • 3 likes
  30. Thatcher

    Rick,

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #30
    • July 16, 2017 at 7:02 pm
    • 1 like
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