The Event of a Lifetime: Solar Eclipse

by Aelwen Iredale, Hallie Gleeson, and Noah Calhoun

On April 8th, a normally boring Monday became exciting. Through our 9:10 classes, we remained on edge and kept glancing at the clock. We were itching to leave for the experience of a lifetime—a total solar eclipse. The moment the clock hit 10:10, we raced from our classes. We dashed to our dorms to drop off our bags and sprinted to the car. We were breathless and panting for air as we slammed the doors shut, but we were finally on our way to the eclipse.

Columbus, Indiana is two hours and forty-five minutes away from Centre College on a normal day, but on the day of the eclipse? It was going to take far longer due to traffic. To combat this, we opted for the backroads. Did we still get stuck behind a wreck? Yes. Did we still take four hours to get to the park? Yes. Did we feel miserable? No. We were always moving, the sights were beautiful on the backroads, and, as the eclipse began at just before 2:00, those of us in the backseat leaned back with our glasses and watched the slightest sliver of the sun disappear behind the moon. The time in the car flew by as our eager anticipation of totality grew.

By the time we arrived at the park, it was time to sit and wait for the eclipse. After (illegally) parking, we ate our picnic lunch while periodically looking up with our eclipse glasses. Now that totality was nearly upon us, every moment felt like an eternity. Ever-so-slowly—painfully teasing our eagerness to see the sight of a lifetime—the moon overtook the sun. The eclipse arrived.

The moment the sun disappeared from our eclipse glasses, we tore them off. We gazed at the total eclipse in total awe, totally enraptured by this heavenly sight. The animals fell silent. The sky became the hue of night as sunset encircled the world around us. We sat alone in night-time. The rest of the world was illuminated in daylight. The silvery corona danced around the abyssal blackness of the moon, giving us the light we needed to see, but reminding us of the beauty of our solar system—how it holds us in a balance between night and day, darkness and light, coldness and warmth. Seeing its majesty in a solar eclipse was intimidating and exhilarating.

Gazing at the obscured sun, we could see a small red dot near its bottom left. This red dot was all we could see of an arc of plasma—a solar prominence—that stuck out beyond the edge of the moon. As we watched the moon continue its journey across the sky, it slowly let the sun shine once more. For the brief moment before the full force of the sun returned, a small band of sparkles flashes across the edges of the moon. These beads of solar light shone through the canyons and ridges of the lunar surface. They were barely within the safe-viewing brightness of the human eye, but they were an astounding final image before we put on our glasses again. We had risked our sight, but seeing the entirety of totality was a breathtaking, unforgettable experience.

As we talked to each other about the true wonder of our experiences, the only real danger of a solar eclipse started to appear: the horrific traffic. Our group elected to watch some of the shrinking partial eclipse instead of leaving immediately. This gave us the opportunity to avoid the visible pile-up of cars reaching deep into this small park. 

Eventually, around 3:40, we decided to head back to Centre, following the same web of winding back-roads which we had taken to get to Columbus. This time, though, our navigator had changed to a not-so-skilled individual. On the way to Columbus, Caitlin Crum had been a great communicator, and her instructions were timely and helpful. On the way back to Centre, Noah Calhoun opted to instead confuse our driver. For example, he indicated that the road took a slight left turn by saying, “turn straight.” In Caitlin’s words: “it’s not difficult to follow the directions the GPS gives you. I’m honestly amazed at how badly Noah managed to do it.” Frankly, it’s a miracle we arrived back at 7:30.

We even took a break at a lonely gas station (with cheap prices, so worth being in the middle of nowhere). Instead of it lasting ten minutes, it lasted at least twenty, due to Nathan Clinton Palley deciding he needed to try the supposedly “world-famous” Newt Burger advertised at the gas station. According to Nathan, however, it was “disappointingly okay.”

We returned to Centre exhausted from a day’s worth of driving, laughing, navigating, shouting, and spending time with friends. Although we lost out on an afternoon of schoolwork, it was worth every moment to see totality. Despite our delay before leaving—for Nathan’s burger—we still managed to reach Centre before the Outdoors Club, who elected to take the interstates back to Centre. 

Would we do it again? Absolutely! Totality is a magical, beautiful experience. A solar eclipse shows the precise way our earth, moon, and sun orbit one another to create such amazing sights. To miss it would be to miss the celestial magnificence of our world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *