Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The 2017 Solar Eclipse

This week was one of the few times the United States came together as a nation. No matter who you are, your political party affiliation, your ethnic background and beliefs, you were watching a total solar eclipse in person, on the internet or on television Monday, Aug. 21.

The President stood on a White House balcony with his family to watch, at times without safety glasses. On hillsides across the country, especially in those small towns in the nation's midsection, crowds sat and looked up, like the audience at a 3-D movie, with their special glasses. It was the first coast to coast total eclipse in almost 100 years. The next solar eclipse to be seen from the U.S. will be in 2024.

Everyone had their cellphones and cameras ready to record the moment and put it on their social media pages. Television networks had crews and their main anchors reporting in case your local weather did not make for optimal viewing outside. Even NASA, the space agency, live-streamed the eclipse on the internet.

It was what we used to call in the 1960s a happening.

MH, with his scientific bent, was ready for it.

As the start of the eclipse neared, around 1:30pm ET in New Jersey, he pulled one of our small, white, plastic tables off our porch, put it on the top of the driveway where the sun wasn't blocked by trees and readied his grandfather's binoculars to shine the sun through. At just the right angle, two suns appeared on the table top, like something out of "Star Wars."

With one hand on his trusty phone and the other on the binoculars, he was able to document the transit of the new moon. Where we live the sun was about 75% covered, so it never really got that dark, more like dusk. His photos are shown here.

1:40pm ET (photos by RE Berg-Andersson)

1:52 pm

2:16 pm




Professional scientists were out watching and photographing the eclipse, too, studying the sun's corona, for instance, and the eclipse's effects on birds and animals.

This is not new. For instance, consider this report from the Kansas City Star:

In February 1998, [Elliot Tramer, a professor of biology and director of environmental sciences at the University of Toledo in Ohio] was in Venezuela for a total solar eclipse and, by happenstance, witnessed the unusual and collective behavior of sea birds such as gulls, terns, pelicans, cormorants and frigatebirds.
“As the eclipse approached and it began to get a dusk-like lighting, the sun was probably 70 to 80 percent occluded, these birds all got up and flew inland,” Tramer said, an observation that he later published. “The local people in Spanish were all saying, ‘The birds think it’s evening!’ 
Once the eclipse passed, the birds flew back to sea.
In my neighborhood, everything went quiet except my neighbor's two yappy dogs, which were barking as she tried to photograph the eclipse, before the clouds rolled in and covered the sun. Was it the eclipse affecting them or their owner's strange behavior? Only they know.