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2024 Total Solar Eclipse: No photos, videos, or words can do it justice

After a short nap in a Walmart parking lot, a wildlife refuge, and then a quick realization our planned viewing location would be closed, we witnessed something most people never get to see, a total solar eclipse. However, time continues to move forward and what is done is done. For those that witnessed it, what do we do next?

An experience unlike anything else

I’ve seen two partial solar eclipses, in 2017 and last year. For the most part, everyone experiences the same thing and unless you have solar filters/glasses you won’t even be able to notice anything is different.

However, all that changes for a small 70 mile wide track for total eclipses. There the Sun is entirely blocked by the Moon, something only possible on Earth as the Sun and the Moon’s distances make them look like the same size to us. This is where things get crazy.

Like any clear sunny days you usually always have sunglasses on and can feel the heat of the Sun on your skin. As you approach the halfway point between first contact (the start of eclipse) and second contact (beginning of totality) the sunglasses get taken off and you forget about the Sun’s heat. Something I didn’t even realize I did until after it was done and was looking for my glasses. At that point, it felt like a cool cloudy day, even though there wasn’t a cloud in sight in Southern Illinois.

The closer you get to totality the more crazy and unexpected things start to happen. Instead of daylight it feels like dusk, the birds go away, crickets start to chirp, and my favorite part, the bugs left everyone alone. Unlike us humans, the wildlife don’t get weeks of heads up of the Sun being blocked out so they just think it’s time to go end their day.

This is also when you get to see weird acting shadows, sadly that wasn’t apparent where I was viewing, guess that just means I gotta see another one?

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No matter if you’re at 99%, 90%, 75% or whatever percent blocked, the light from the Sun is still bright enough to damage your eyes and light up the ground. While it feels like dusk, once the Moon moves completely over the Sun, the show begins.

If I had words to describe looking at the Sun at totality, I don’t think it would fit inside this article. Attempting to comprehend that object you can’t even look at is now black and you can see with the naked eye the Sun’s corona just feels impossible.

Thankfully I had Daryl Saussé with me, which this was his second eclipse, to take photos. For me, I just got to stand in awe of what I was seeing. Looking around seeing what is like sunsets on either horizon, the bluish-yellowish glow around the Moon, and seeing Venus and Jupiter during the day I think was just too much for my little mind to handle.

Thinking about it now, the beauty of it all is almost bringing me to tears.

So now what?

For those that got to see Monday’s eclipse, how do we move forward? This was the last one taking place in the continental United States for a few decades. If you want to go to one sooner you’re going to have to travel across the pond to Spain or Iceland.

Unlike rocket launches, which are now hard to miss if you’re vacationing in Florida, the resources and time it takes to see a total solar eclipse can be too much for many. Spreading the “good word” of what we saw to others in hope that they can make the next one seems pointless. Either you got to see it or you didn’t, it’s up to them if they can make it to the next one. Even worse, how do you explain the experience to someone that has no chance of seeing the next one? I feel humbled about my experience, and grateful for those that helped make it possible.

While I stood out in a field with about a hundred others, years long friends and brand new ones, I felt almost alone. A moment I will remember for my entire life, but have no way to express it to others.

No matter how amazing Daryl and Steven’s photos are, they can’t compete with the entire experience of seeing it in person. Video, no matter how high of a resolution, doesn’t capture the euphoria that is flowing throughout your body.

In the grand scheme of humanity, those of us in that field, wither it was Texas, Illinois, or anywhere else in the track, are the lucky few that witness what most people will never. So what’s next? I don’t know.

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Avatar for Seth Kurkowski Seth Kurkowski

Seth Kurkowski covers launches and general space news for Space Explored. He has been following launches from Florida since 2018.

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