Today, I saw my third solar eclipse.
The first one was a full solar eclipse in 1999, on August 11th, my birthday! We lived in Belgium at the time so we traveled all the way south to the border with France to be able to see the total eclipse and the sun’s corona.
We came early and secured a nice spot to sit to admire the solar eclipse. Soon we were joined by others and everyone was staring up through their eclipse glasses. It was very exciting, we saw the moon move in front of the sun and turn it into a thinner and thinner crescent. But when it was total eclipse time the clouds moved in front of nature’s spectacle and we saw absolutely nothing. It got darker and darker, but not nearly as dark as it gets at night, and then lighter and lighter again. The clouds moved. And so had the moon. We had missed the climax, we did not get to see the sun’s crown. We did see the moon move away from the sun again and the crescent-shaped sun increasing in size again. But there was no hiding it, we were disappointed and so were the others in the crowd. Everyone had traveled here just to see that one special moment and the clouds had hidden it from us.
My mom took this picture of my brothers and I after the eclipse. We were feeling quite deflated because we had all had high hopes. I still remember sitting there and feeling really down, since the next total eclipse we could possibly see wouldn’t come around until, well, today. But that seemed forever away back then.
I also didn’t know I would be living in Japan on July 22nd, 2009 to see another eclipse there. It wasn’t nearly as big a deal to me then. It happened during the week, in late morning before I had to go to work. So I just took my bike, went around the neighborhood and took some pictures (wish I could find them now). All I remember seeing was the crescent-shaped sun again, no total eclipse, no corona. But I didn’t have high hopes for that anyways and I wasn’t looking very hard, since I had no solar eclipse glasses.
And then today was my third time to see a solar eclipse. This time in England. Again, I was totally unprepared. I just hung around the park after my morning swim and tried to view the eclipse using my iPhone, since I still don’t have any solar eclipse glasses and I don’t want to ruin my retinas.
At first I was facing away from it, with my front facing camera on so I could see what was happening behind me. But all I really saw was a bright round ball of light, even though I knew the eclipse was happening at that time and it was also getting darker. Then I suddenly caught a glimpse of a very bright and thin green crescent, which was a direct reflection of the sun into my screen and probably my retina… ouch. I was surprised to see how thin it was, compared to the huge ball of light my iPhone camera screen was showing me.
I found some people in the park with solar filters who let me look through it to admire the partial eclipse. In any case, there was no hope of seeing a total eclipse from Buxton today since it was only going to be a 90% eclipse here, so I don’t feel like I missed the corona climax again. I kind of felt lucky to live in yet another country, with another chance to witness a solar eclipse on just a regular day.
I tried taking some pictures of the eclipse without looking up, just looking down to the screen of my iPhone that was pointed up to the sun. Even though the sun itself appears like a bright ball of light in every picture, I could still see what was happening with the eclipse since the sunlight and its rays created a bright green crescent reflection in each picture. Which I thought was kind of cool.
It’s funny sometimes how reality measures up to your expectations. In 1999, we prepared, traveled, and went for a total eclipse with huge expectations, but we were unlucky and we were letdown very much. Today, I wasn’t really invested in the eclipse, I just thought I’d try to have a peek on my way home from the gym, and I ended up with some interesting pictures. We never even took pictures of the actual eclipse in 1999. I totally enjoyed today’s eclipse the most.