Chicago, North America

Great American Eclipse Afterthoughts

My Afterthoughts on the Great American Eclipse

I was not prepared at all for the Great American Eclipse.  No article, image, or video has come close to matching the magnificence of such a sight.  Awestruck, I felt I had seen the most incredible sight I ever will in life.  It was out of this world – literally.

On August 21st, 2017, the United States saw their first eclipse traveling from the west to east coast since 1918, an event in the making for 99 years.

Driving Time

My back was sore from six hours of driving from Chicago to Marion, IL, where my partner and I stayed the night prior.  Flat plains remained ever constant as we cruised down I-57.  Anticipating eight to ten hours of driving, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of congestion. Heading back was a separate ordeal, however.  An influx of vehicles entering the highway post-totality left I-57 a temporary junkyard.  No car was going anywhere.  After eight hours, we were finally in Home Sweet Chicago.  I think eight hours of driving isn’t too bad, considering just how many people drove down to southern Illinois for the event.

Partially Eclipsed: An Hour Before Totality

At 11.53am, the countdown began for us in Marion, IL.  The moon started to obscure the sun, but just barely.  Now, to keep busy until the moment of totality.  I had brought a couple different pinhole projects: a piece of paper with a hole in it and a colander.  The colander projected the partially eclipsed sun!  Very cool.

Using a colander as a pinhole projector to reflect images of the partial eclipse
Using a colander as a pinhole projector to reflect images of the partial eclipse

I was able to take pictures of the partial eclipse phases as well with a proper solar filter.  It seemed every time I looked up at the sun (through protective solar goggles), the moon had devoured even more of the sun.

Great American Eclipse during it's partial phase leading up to totality


I worried if clouds would obscure our view of the Great American Eclipse.  Overwhelming cumulus clouds gathered in bunches along the horizon, but none had affected the sun as of yet.

Five Minutes Before Totality

Temperature Drop

Summertime in Marion, IL can have your skin melting, which is why for most of the partial phases we stayed in the car with the AC on, getting out occasionally to take pictures and view at the sun’s progress.  The last ten minutes prior to totality, the temperature cooled.  It was no longer hot, but instead felt neutral.

Shadow Bands

A phenomenon that doesn’t have much documentation occurs right before totality, called shadow bands.  They don’t occur at every eclipse, so I was lucky enough to see them.  Shadow bands look like thin bands of light and dark shadows, dancing across the ground.  They are easily seen by putting down a white sheet.

Anxiety & Fear

In the last moments before totality, I seemed unable to take any more pictures of the partial eclipse.  My hands were shaking, I couldn’t think right.  I was aware of what was meant to happen in a few minutes, but I was unable to process it.

The moon will pass the sun.  I will be able to look directly at it, with no eye protection.  The sky will darken to twilight, stars becoming visible.
For two minutes and thirty seven seconds, I will witness a visual experience I may never get the chance of seeing again in my lifetime.  That many have never seen.

And then there it was.

The Great American Eclipse during totality
The Great American Eclipse during totality

Staring down like a celestial eye, I couldn’t help but scream aloud “Oh, my God!” over and over, because it truly is a spiritual experience.  Time stops, but it also passes too quickly.  I couldn’t believe it when my timer began alarming me to put my protective glasses back on.  My brain couldn’t fathom that this celestial sight would leave my eyes for another seven years – and luckily even that soon.

I’m thrilled I was able to capture the image above.  I was unsure if I’d have the proper settings on my camera, and I didn’t want to spend more than 10 or 20 seconds focusing on my camera instead of what was above me.  As a disclaimer, I need to say that there are no images or articles that can prepare you for a total eclipse.  While they resemble it, they don’t accurately capture what you’re seeing in the moment.

You need to see it for yourself.

The next total eclipse is in South America in 2019.  Go book your plane tickets.