We kicked off our second week of our homeschool with a Total Solar Eclipse. Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that August 21, 2017 was a big deal as far as solar eclipses go in the USA. The eclipse reached totality in 14 states as it crossed from the west to east coast over the course of the day.
Chattanooga and the surrounding area where we live was supposed to experience a 99% eclipse. Up until the morning of the eclipse, Daniel and I continued to debate whether or not it would be worth it to drive a little bit north to experience complete totality. In the end we agreed that it would be worth the effort, and it totally was.
We received our NASA-approved solar eclipse glasses in time for the event (many had trouble getting approved ones in time), and the kids and I spent the morning decorating paper plates to make a mask for an extra level of eye protection.
We also listened to a couple of different podcasts about what to expect during the eclipse (Brains On! and Wow in the World), and I read the kids an excerpt from an essay by Annie Dillard about her 1982 total eclipse experience.
The podcasts and essay gave us an idea about what to expect, but experiencing totality in person was next level. I'm not even sure how to describe what it felt like to see the sun fully eclipsed by the moon. And to share this experience with our kids was amazing. If you ever have the chance to experience totality, do it!
The podcasts let us know that the shadows during the eclipse would be strange. And they were. Leaves in trees acted like pinhole cameras making little crescents of the sun all over the ground.
As the eclipse neared totality, birds quieted, crickets took up their night songs, and the colors around us became incredibly muted.
As the moon completely covered the sun we experienced a hushed silence and then people around us began yelling and honking their car horns. Isaac excitedly shouted "MOON! MOON!" and kept pointing at the sky.
We removed our glasses from our faces and stared at awe at the sun, and noticed the twinkling of stars joining the "night" sky. We watched for two-and-a-half minutes as the sun rays peeked around the edge of the moon. It felt like there was a hole in the sky and we were awestruck as we experienced the Diamond Ring effect and Bailey's Beads.
Watching our children's reaction was my favorite part. I was surprised at the way the world turned dark, but not black. Colors were muted and my eyes felt like I was seeing everything through a haze. Annie Dillard described it this way:
I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. Their every detail of stem, head, and blade shone lightless and artificially distinct as an art photographer’s platinum print. This color has never been seen on Earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. The hillside was a 19th-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. All the people you see in the photograph, distinct and detailed as their faces look, are now dead...
All of our local public schools let out for the day, so many of our friends were able to experience this awesome natural event as well. I am thankful Daniel was able to leave work early to join us for this part of our homeschool day. Afterward we celebrated with Sun Chips and Moon Pies.
Info about our Eclipse Experience:
Date of Eclipse: 8/21/17
Time of Eclipse: 2:31pm
Duration of Totality: 2min 21sec
Type of Eclipse: Total Solar Eclipse
The weather was: Hot and Sunny (90*F)
Where: We viewed the eclipse as a family from the Cotton Port Wildlife Management Area outside of Dayton, Tennessee.
What surprised Jack the most: "It was pretty dark. The moon did NOT cover the whole sun... The sides were sticking out where we could see it."
Jack's favorite part: "Looking at the sun without glasses. Also wearing glasses... they were pretty cool to wear."