One fine weekend in May, the Eastmond clan gathered at the LaVerkin Overlook, near 1-15 in Southern Utah, to watch the annular eclipse of the sun. We began with some music by Dan and Ann, then finished with young Esther gazing at the glowing sun. About 30 minutes later, the moon touched the edge, then we all watched (through our special glasses, provided by our niece Lisa and Dave's sister, Anna Clare) as the moon inched across the sun.
A cellphone shot--not too great.
We keep checking, but not yet.
The LaVerkin Overlook is reached by a long dirt road off the main drag on the way to Zion National Park. We decided it was where all the LaVerkin teenagers go to make out. Here a few shots of all the folks who were out there.
The view to the side of us. Yep, typical southern Utah--dramatic mountain profiles against grasses and scrub.
Garion, Andrea and Jacob's son. He was quite interested in photography and kept coming to me with questions about how the features on his camera worked. He eventually slipped the glasses over the lens and took a couple of shots that turned out really well.
We have first contact. That's astronomy lingo for the moon has reached the outer edge of the sun.
Random dude in a blue spacesuit with safety vest out in the scrub, turned away from the sun. The light started to get very weird, almost silvery in a strange metallic way. Hard to describe, but memorable.
These guys (in the white T-shirts) came around giving out paper plates to show how you could "see" the eclipse by holding the first plate (that had a hole punched in it) some distance away from a flat surface. I tell you it was a regular party out there. We were handing out licorice to the children, Dan and Ann were playing their tunes, and we all looked 1950s nerds with our special glasses on.
Kendrick with his parents, Earl and Anna Clare.
We try out the paper plate thing on Nick's shirt--it cast a double image, but you can see it's not yet all the way in the center. Apparently by dumb luck, we happened to be in Utah on the day of the eclipse, and then by even more dumb luck, in the place where the full eclipse could be seen (the moon dead center of the sun).
Dan gets the paper plate treatment.
Random dude now facing the sun. Still in the blue jumpsuit. Still in the field. Later I walked past he and his wife; he said it was an "art project." Go, Art.
Here it comes, yelled someone. We all put our glasses on our face and watched.
As the moon went to dead center, a cheer came from all around us--it's really kind of amazing to see the sun be blotted out. No wonder the ancients imbued this event with all sorts of legends and lore, including the one about how a snake swallowed the sun. It really was completely magical.
Dave's shot as the moon headed toward "second contact."
What we noticed was how strange the light was--certainly it was dimmed, but these photographs don't accurately capture what was going on. The shadows were also all doubled up, as shown by a shot of my hand with my niece Suzanne's hand.
A longer view. Notice the blurred edges of the shadows.
Benjamin and Kendrick confer. Is it over? As soon as second contact finished, we jumped in our cars and headed back to camp.
But save your glasses, Lisa said, for the Transit of Venus is this year also. Transit of Venus? I did a little research and got all primed up for that event--a much less celebratory occasion. The last I'll ever see as they only come around every 100+ years or so, it takes about 6 hours, instead of the 30 minutes of the annular eclipse.
When it started, my friend Joan came over and we got out the lawn chairs, put on our glasses, and saw. . . nothing. Sun's too high in the sky, we decided. Better check back later.
The Hamiltons came over with their grandchildren. After they left, I got smart and started walking around the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, asking people if they wanted to see The Transit of Venus. To a soul, they did. So lots of excited people smiling and looking at the sun with the nerdy glasses on their faces. It was a great event, after all, once you share it with friends and neighbors. Dave came home and he watched it for a bit, then another neighbor got home and came over to see, and we chatted for a while about his daughter graduating from college, summer plans, and oh yes, that teensy dot about 3 o'clock up on the sun.
As the sun descended into the evening haze near the horizon line, we couldn't see Venus anymore. Eclipses were over.
But kind of fun while they lasted.