Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Aug. 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse from Grand Teton National Park!

My husband and I were fortunate enough to plan WAY ahead and get lodging for our summer vacation in Jackson, WY, so we could hike in Grand Teton National Park and view the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.  We had a wonderful trip, and the eclipse was amazing!

We viewed the eclipse just a few miles from the Jackson Hole airport, which was near the centerline of totality.  The partial eclipse started at about 10:17am, totality started about 11:35am, totality ended just after 11:37am, and the eclipse ended at about 1:00pm.

While the partial eclipse was interesting to view through eclipse glasses, no other effects were apparent until the Sun started getting 80% and more eclipsed.

We noticed that it was getting generally darker, so much so that passing cars on the road had their automatic lights on.  The coloring of the light was odd, though.  Unlike a sunrise or sunset, where the dim sunlight is reddened, this dimmer light wasn't red.  The dusk that started was oddly bluish to me in contrast to a sunrise or sunset.  It had an eerie quality almost like a poor fluorescent light.

We were also in Wyoming, which is a very dry area that has big temperature swings between night and day.  As the Sun became more eclipsed, the ambient temperature dropped dramatically - I think it must have gone from 70s F down into the 50s F during totality.

Totality itself was amazing.  We saw a beautiful diamond ring effect when the Moon initially blocked the entire Sun.  And then it seemed like the Sun was so small - without the blindingly bright light from the photosphere to make the Sun seem large, its true angular size was so small!  The Moon's night side was so amazingly dark, like a hole in the sky.  The corona wasn't very active - I noticed about three streamers during totality.  The sky didn't get quite as dark as night, but Venus was very distinct.  I wasn't able to see Regulus (for sure) or Mars or Mercury.  There were a few other stars visible farther from the Sun that I wasn't certain what they were.

I hadn't really seen the Moon's shadow approaching us along the ground - I think that may be partly because it was coming over the Tetons, so we couldn't see it as far away.  But when totality ended, I definitely saw the Moon's shadow rushing away from us toward the east.  We saw another diamond ring just at the end of totality.

Overall, it was such an awesome event!  Well worth all the time and planning to see it.

I wanted to give a big "thank you" to all of the management of Grand Teton National Park and the city of Jackson.  The entire eclipse "event" was extremely well-thought-out and well-planned by the folks in charge.  We arrived in Jackson over a week before the eclipse, and there were already message signs out around town and in the park reminding people of the upcoming eclipse and changes in traffic, parking, and travel.  The National Park Service printed a huge number of approximately 8-page newspapers with extensive information about how, where, and when to view the eclipse and accurate information about what a total solar eclipse is.    Eclipse glasses were available everywhere.

The park had designated several viewing areas for the eclipse.  They had designated a long road through the park near the centerline of the eclipse as one of the main viewing areas, and also allowed viewing from all of the turn-outs along the park roads.  The most miraculous bit of planning to me was that two days before the eclipse, port-a-potties appeared in every single viewing area in the park.  Since people started parking before 6am and totality wasn't until about 11:30am, some type of facilities were needed, but I was amazed that these were all provided ahead of time.  Once eclipse parking started, every different turn-out and viewing area had a staffer to help manage traffic and hand out eclipse glasses if needed.

I was extremely impressed by the organization, and Jackson and Grand Teton NP help turn the eclipse into an unforgettable, positive event by smoothing out ahead of time the snags that could have developed.