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FAMILY REUNION   How Do You Eclipse An Eclipse?


How Do You Eclipse An Eclipse?

BY PAT BURNS

What could possibly eclipse an eclipse? Turning it into a family reunion adventure of course! With four siblings and their kids, we are a family of 25 spread across four generations and we’ve agreed to gather together and join the millions of other people setting out to watch the GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE. Needless to say, a lot of effort in planning and keeping control of everyone’s moving parts is required to pull off a family reunion along with the epic eclipse.

On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will rip across Mexico, the US, and Canada. The total event – from start to finish – will take 139 minutes, giving a glimpse of solar eclipse totality to over 30 million people. Unless you have extreme longevity in your DNA, you’ll want to find a place to watch this eclipse because the next great total eclipse in the United States will be in 2045 and I’m fairly certain many of us won’t be around for that one.

eclipseWhile this April’s eclipse can be seen from many places, the most wonderful and transformative experience takes place within the path of (what is called) TOTALITY.

For the family reunion, we wanted to find the best place possible to experience this incredible and extremely rare event with the greatest amount of minutes of viewing the totality. After a year and a half of online research, with my eclipse-chasing friend, we found the exact location we wanted where we would have the longest eclipse viewing time in the US. Once we determined the location, it was lots of phone calls and back-and-forth emails to vacation rental listings until we found the optimal property to watch the eclipse totality. It’s a terrific lakefront spot in the heart of Texas Hill country which is only 80 miles from Austin. This rural country spot houses three separate cottages with room for all of us and is in the path of totality which will last for a remarkable 4 minutes and 23 seconds.

eclipse
My sister enjoying her eclipse glasses

Back in August of 2017, along with my eclipse-chasing friends Bob and Sharon, we were able to watch the totality eclipse in Oregon. With the same amount of research, we found a great place well within the path of totality. I will never forget it. The mystical experience starts happening when the eclipse travels from halfway to three-quarters. From that point on everything changes. The air temperature begins to slowly drop. The sky is darkening, too.

The total eclipse created a midday sunset which is very different from a sunset when the sun is high in the sky instead of low on the horizon. During sunsets, air molecules scatter away the shorter wavelengths of light and the only light that penetrates through the atmosphere produces colorful sunsets. With the eclipse’s midday sunset, there are no pinks, oranges, yellow, or pale blue colors. It just gets darker, everywhere.

Standing among the hills of Oregon we watched the surrounding mountains turn from brown to dark blue and then to deep purple. The sky became darker and darker and the temperature continued to drop. And the surrounding area became very quiet, too. No birds chirping or any small critter’s movement could be heard. The environment became still. So did the spectators. Except for everyone’s soft sounds of “wow” or “oh my.”

And then, finally, it happens, totality! From the car-lined roads to the rolling hilltops, people cheered because, for one minute and 27 seconds, we could remove our NASA-approved protective eclipse glasses and look at the completely covered sun. Only the illuminating white glow around the dark black shadow, which streaked light pushing from the center, could be seen. This is called the corona and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. Then just as the moon moved off the sun a blast of light shot out of the top corner. It was the diamond ring!

The sun certainly will be the star of this family reunion but we won’t just be eclipse watching. We have other fun group activities planned. Texas-style BBQs, boating and fishing, playing games like horseshoes, ping pong, and volleyball. Then, of course, listening to songs selected to fit the occasion. Using Spotify we’ve downloaded 100 songs with either “moon” or “sun” in the song or in the title. Songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine While She’s Gone” by Bill Withers “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonders and the Beatles classic, “Here Comes the Sun.”

Our perfect place to watch the 2024 eclipse

Like most large (or small) families, there will most likely be squabbles and arguments about one thing or another at the family reunion but no matter what, the ties that bind families remain unbreakable. Remembering the shared history and love that binds the family together will always be the underlying thread that withstands the test of time. Everything else aside, one thing we can all agree on is that this reunion and epic eclipse will be part of our shared history and be what we always remember.

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Pat Burns

About the author

Pat Burns is the co-founder of the Orange County Children's Book Festival, a celebrity journalist, film reviewer and a consultant for nonprofits

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