Where were you on August 21, 2017? That’s a day I’ll remember for a long time. I first learned about the solar eclipse about six or so months prior, and I instantly knew this was something special. My first call was to my boyfriend, telling him we were taking August 21st off. The solar eclipse would be going right over us and we were not going to miss it. Greenville, SC was one of the places to see the 2017 solar eclipse.
For the whole summer we planned for the day. Where should we watch it? Maybe from Lake Hartwell where the whole sky would be visible? We surveyed islands and planned for a hot, long day at the lake with tents, drinks, and food.
Then, of course, two days before the big day, I stepped on a fire ant hill and my entire foot swelled up. Walking around a rocking boat and sitting out in the sun for a whole day seemed like death. My foot needed to stay elevated with a bag of ice on it. The lake was out.
Instead we brought our little party just out to the backyard. We still set up the tent and had plenty of snacks and drinks on hand. Plus a real toilet. And that’s always a plus.
Other than experiencing the solar eclipse with Ryan, I also invited my parents down. My Dad is the stereotypical science teacher. And he was pumped to see the solar eclipse. I got texts every day for a week leading up to August 21st with the weather forecast. This would be his first solar eclipse.
I also knew I wanted to photograph the solar eclipse. But I wasn’t sure how. And unfortunately I was extremely busy the week before and didn’t do much research beforehand. Though I did peruse some solar eclipse photography to see what others had done.
And Ryan convinced me to buy a solar eclipse filter for my camera. This was absolutely essential.
I had also picked up some solar eclipse glasses at our local science center for my family. This was also absolutely essential.
Sitting out in the backyard, the build up to totality was intense. Every 3-5 minutes we would peak up at the sun through our glasses and remark about how much closer it was.
As the moon slowly crossed over the sun, my excitement grew. We were getting so close! How dark would it get?
Answer? Much darker than I thought it would!
The air around us grew still in those last 10-15 minutes. The daylight also began to wane, but not in a way I was familiar with. This wasn’t dusk, but an eerie dimming. Like someone was actually dimming the light from above. Birds began to chirp and my Dad instantly pointed out that they were singing their evening songs.
As the last sliver of the sun disappeared, I ripped my glasses off and saw the last glow vanish. Then darkness.
The neighborhood around us erupted into cheers as we slipped into this pseudo-night. Everyone was out watching the eclipse.
My hands flew to my camera as I tried to capture the experience. The solar corona flared around the moon and I could barely take my eyes off of it.
We couldn’t help remarking on how dark it actually was. We couldn’t see much of the 360 degree sunset due to the trees around us, so for us it was like night. Hell, even the bats thought night had come early and streaked overhead.
It was one of the coolest and craziest things I’ve ever seen. And easily the fastest 2 minutes of my life.
Then, a blinding light. A light so bright and white that I blinked against it and had to turn away. It pierced the darkness as the sun reemerged.
This was one of my favorite parts, the diamond ring effect. The rays of the sun exploded out from the side of the moon and it literally looked a diamond ring. At least for a short while.
Then it was too bright and the solar eclipse glasses were back on my face.
And as we watched the moon retreat from the sun, I was sad to see it go. The buildup had been so intense, and then totality has been amazing but so short.
But over the next hour or so, we stuck it out and watched the final phase of the eclipse. And for the final minutes, we stared up at the sun and watched the last traces of the moon disappear.
And then it was gone.
To see such a rare event. To witness a total solar eclipse in literally my backyard was a once in a lifetime experience. I hate that saying but it’s true. Though I may see another solar eclipse, it won’t be my first. And it won’t be in my hometown. In my own yard.
This was special.