|EDITORIAL: Total Eclipse of the Sun, Almost|
|Bill Hudson | 5/22/12|
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|Camille and Judi invited Cynda and I to visit their little homestead 20 miles west of town, on Sunday afternoon, for an early dinner and a solar eclipse.|
Camille and Judi invited Cynda and I to visit their little homestead 20 miles west of town, on Sunday afternoon, for an early dinner and a solar eclipse.
Camille, better known to his friends as ‘Caz’, had constructed a primitive cardboard ‘camera’ for safely viewing the eclipse — a box with a pinhole in one end, and a piece of white paper taped to the inside as a screen. If you held the box with the pinhole pointed directly at the Sun, you could see a tiny image of the sun (upside down, as we would soon discover) about the size of a baby aspirin, projected on the white sheet of paper.
About 3:30, we began checking the image and wondering if the box ‘camera’ was actually working. We’d heard vaguely about the scheduled time of the eclipse — the somewhat rare passage of the Moon directly in front of the Sun — but had no real idea the exact time the event would begin. We also knew, vaguely, that here in Pagosa Springs we would be seeing only a “partial eclipse” — the Moon would not fully cover the Sun. But we really didn’t know how partial that "partial" would be.
Judi with Caz' 'camera'.
Tiny projected image showed a little chunk out of the Sun's northeast corner.
Caz, Bill and Judi discussing astrophysics. The bowl of strawberries were essentially unrelated to the eclipse-viewing project.
Judi, who hails from Louisiana, had cooked up a fabulous dish of “Creamy Creole Shrimp” served over fresh popovers — click here for the Shrimp recipe, and click here for the Popover recipe — and about the time we were settling down to a pre-eclipse meal, two of Caz and Judi’s friends showed up with beer and a bowl of pasta salad.
We ate and drank, and kept checking the camera. Still no eclipse. Finally, I suggested to Caz that maybe the “pinhole” in his camera was too large, or maybe the cardboard was too thick.. and maybe we should try the more primitive method: a pinhole pushed through a sheet of Manila folder. Luckily, Caz had a lot of Manila folders laying around.
By 6:45 we’d had a few beers and rum cocktails, and the two friends had departed. We were ready for the eclipse to start already. And sure enough, there it was. Finally. A tiny chunk of the Sun had disappeared out of its northeast corner.
The image was brighter, but somewhat more fuzzy, in Caz’ camera. The image projected by the Manila folder, with its smaller hole, was dim but more sharply defined.
Slowly, over the next couple of hours (we’re not sure exactly how long it took, other than to say “about two and a half rum cocktails”) the Moon gradually slid in front of the Sun, until only a tiny crescent remained, shaped like a smile. By then, the Sun had dropped behind the cottonwood trees lining Caz and Judi’s 15-acre property, and we discovered a fascinating pattern of crescent-shaped shadows cast on the walls of the stucco-finished home by the eclipsed Sun shining through the leaves.
At that point, the light had grown noticeably dim; it seemed like we were experiencing Sunset, even though the Sun was still several degrees above the horizon. I knew that we were not supposed to look directly at the Sun, but I couldn’t resist. Squinting my eyes, I took a brief glance, and I could discern the crescent shape — except the crescent was the reverse of what we’d been seeing with our primitive projectors: not a smile, but a little girl’s plastic headband perhaps.
The image was burned into my vision for several minutes, as a bluish-green arc.
As we drove home afterwards, I stopped to snap a picture of the distant rock spires towering above the Chimney Rock National Historic Site, where the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association had held its “Solar Eclipse Program” that evening.
We could see dozens of cars coming down from the hilltop, a plume of clay dust rising along the dirt roadway. The site, part of the San Juan National Forest, is currently being proposed as a National Monument. (See our recent Daily Post article series, “Chimney Rock, at the Crossroads”)
As we drove by the entrance to the site where the cars were exiting onto Highway 151, I couldn’t help but wonder: had they served rum cocktails?
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