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Extra! Extra! Rare Total Solar Eclipse Occurs in North America!

On Monday, April 8th, 2024, a rare solar eclipse impacted a large area of North America including most of Canada, the entire lower 48 United States, all of the Hawaiian Islands, and parts of Alaskan Panhandle, all which saw at least a partial solar eclipse (when the moon only partially covers the sun). The path of totality where the total solar eclipse (when the moon completely covers the sun so that only the Sun’s corona is visible) was visible ranged from 108 to 122 miles wide, and stretched on land from Mazatlán in Sinaloa, Mexico to a remote spot on the eastern coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Below are maps of where the eclipse was visible (top) and major cities inside the path of totality (bottom). On the top map, the shaded area with circles in it is the path of totality and the yellow lines show where a partial eclipse was visible and the maximum percentage of the sun that gets covered (ex: 95%).


Image Source: Greatamericaneclipse.com
Image Source: Greatamericaneclipse.com

Image Source: Great American Eclipse Website
Image Source: Great American Eclipse Website

For this special blog post, I will present you with two stories of two different people who saw the total solar eclipse in its totality first hand. For the first story, I gave a written interview to Kate Libby, the Founder of Kate Libby Coaching. I will present the Question and Answer (Q and A) here. The second story is my own.


Interview with Kate on her Solar Eclipse Viewing Experience in Canada


Without further ado, I will introduce Kate Libby and present her story in Q and A format. Kate Libby founded Kate Libby Coaching in the year 2015 to in her own words “help other people achieve their goals in a creative, sometimes unorthodox way” through life skills coaching. She created The Social Club (TSC) in May 2022 as a place to build community and friendships, something that can be challenging as an adult. It’s also a space for people who want to improve their social skills to get together in a low pressure environment away from judgment so that they can be themselves. TSC fosters social connections through fun activities in NYC. These activities included, but were not limited to, The Harry Potter Exhibition, an outdoor scavenger hunt, and the Sloomoo Institute (Slime Museum). New activities will be planned in the future.


With that introduction, I will now go on to the question and answer.


Shane Holmes (SH): Could you provide me some more info about your experience? Please describe what you saw. How did it make you feel?


Kate Libby (KL): I had eclipse glasses and used them to check the sun at different intervals as the moon covered more and more of the sun. As totality began, it was fascinating to see my surroundings change in unexpected ways–the shadows lengthening at atypical angles, the birds seemed startled by the sudden onset of dusk, the temperature dropping rapidly. Once the eclipse entered totality, I was able to see the corona and then the diamond ring effect. I also saw shadow bands moving like waves across the ground in front of me as the sun began to reappear.



Solar Eclipse with Planet Venus
Solar Eclipse with Planet Venus

Kate Libby (KL): I was really struck by how tiny I felt in the vast scale of the universe during the eclipse. I had a new awareness of nature and the long arc of time stretching beyond what is comprehensible. It made me feel really tiny in proportion to the universe.


Shane Holmes (SH): Wow, that sounds incredible. In addition to what you have already mentioned earlier with the diamond ring effect and corona, I also noticed in the photo you took the planet Venus just below the Sun.

Ok, on to the next question, When did you leave your home and what city is your home located in? What city in Canada did you travel to? How long did the trip take you? Did you run into bad traffic?


KL: I made a week-end trip to a small town called St. Ferdiand in the rural provinces of Quebec. We stayed in a cabin away from light pollution, so the stars were abundant each night, beyond what I can usually see from my home in Portland, Maine. The positioning of the home also happened to be perfect for an unobstructed view of the eclipse from the back porch. Our drive was about 4 and a half hours each way through rural Maine and the Carrabassett Valley which is the route highlighted in dark blue on the map below. We didn’t experience much trouble with traffic since we traveled on Saturday and then returned home on Tuesday, the day after the eclipse.


Image Source: Google Maps
Image Source: Google Maps

SH: Did you do all the traveling in one day or spend multiple days/nights at a hotel/motel/Air B&B, ect.?


KL: We made the drive each way in one day.


SH: Do you recall what were the weather conditions (temperature and cloud cover)? Was the ground covered in snow? Did you notice a temperature drop as the sun got smaller and then totality occurred?


KL: There was snow on our drive to Canada but it had nearly all melted by the time we returned. Despite the cloud cover when we arrived, the following days were completely cloudless, so there was no interference with eclipse viewing. The temperatures were unusually high in the low 60s while we were there. During the eclipse, the weather probably dropped about 10 degrees, though I didn’t check the exact temperature. It definitely felt chilly.


Below are some additional photographs that Kate took during the eclipse.




The Adventure of a Lifetime: My Solar Eclipse Story


Now shifting gears, I will tell my own eclipse story. This story is about a father and his son (yours truly) bonding over a once in a lifetime event and doing it all in one day. We drove from Mount Vernon, NY to Plattsburgh, NY (see map below) where we departed at 7:15 AM in the morning, hit bad traffic, and got up to a rest area at 1:15 PM (the trip takes 4.5 hours without bad traffic) where we watched the eclipse. The route we took is the dark blue line on the map below.


Image Source: Google Maps
Image Source: Google Maps

The eclipse started at approximately 2:15 PM, and as you can see from the picture below I had my certified eye protection eclipse glasses (note: always use certified eclipse glasses when looking at the sun during the partial phases of an eclipse, sunglasses will not protect your eyes).


Myself Wearing Solar Eclipse Glasses
Myself Wearing Solar Eclipse Glasses

I watched the sun slowly get smaller and smaller to the point where it got pitch black or disappeared, which occurred at the start of totality at 3:25 PM. At this point, it is safe to take the eclipse glasses off to view the show.


The view of this event is indescribable. An event so beautiful and spectacular that the picture below does not adequately show what I viewed with my own eyes. I will include it anyway because, although imperfect, it is still the best way to give you some insight into what I saw. The white ball is the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) and the Moon covered by light reflected from the corona (the result of my cell phone camera taking a poor picture of the sun and moon). Not shown in the picture were pink dots I observed around the edge of the black colored Moon which were prominences made out of plasma (the fourth state of matter; the first three being solid, liquid, and gas). Also of note, to the lower right of the Sun and Moon, the “star” (pinpoint of light) in the picture I took below is the planet Venus.


View of Total Solar Eclipse
View of Total Solar Eclipse

After approximately 3.5 minutes, the end of totality was signaled by the sun in the form of the diamond ring effect (a flash of light). At this point, I was required to put my glasses back on to protect my eyes. After I put the glasses on, I could see the Sun reappearing in a partial phase.


After watching the eclipse for about 15 more minutes, we hit the road at about 3:45 PM only to run into some of the worst traffic I have ever seen. We passed a rest area with a long line for the restrooms. But is it any wonder, we saw license plates from all kinds of states including Alabama, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and, of course, New York. Seeing all of these plates reminded me of a game I played with my sister growing up where we gave point values to each plate on the road based on the distance the state was away from your state (the further away the state the higher the point value).


To avoid the worst of the traffic, we took a different route back home as compared to our trip up there. The route is shown as the light blue line that shows a distance of 299 miles on the map below. That being said, the return trip still took one hour longer than the trip up there.


Image Source: Google Maps
Image Source: Google Maps

I arrived home at 11:30 PM and proceeded to go straight to bed wondering if I would be lucky enough to live to view the next total solar eclipse that will impact New York State in 2079 when I, hopefully, will be 90 years old.



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