Total-ity Lunacy

Total-ity Lunacy

August 21, 2017

“All that is now,
And all that is gone,
And all that’s to come,
And everything under the Sun is in tune –
But the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon”

(Roger Waters – Pink Floyd)

August Full Moon – 2 weeks til Eclipse!

 

Click any picture for a high-res version.  Click your “Back” button to return to the story.  Please see Creative Commons license notice at end of post.

If you read our posts here or if you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you know that we both enjoy traveling around the South.  You also know that we are both hard-core science nerds!  So what better way to satisfy both of those cravings than to travel to the path of totality for the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017?

We’re sure that by now you have been overwhelmed by stories about the science behind eclipses (both solar and lunar); so we won’t bore you with any rehash of material better explained by the experts.  We’ll just stick to our experience – and hope that YOU had an experience with this magnificent event as well. If not?  Start making your travel plans for 2024!

Courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA

First – a little bit of background. We started thinking about the 2017 Solar Eclipse as far back as 2011, and began making serious plans almost a year ago. We’ve both seen numerous total lunar eclipses – but neither of us had seen a total solar eclipse.  So we purchased eclipse glasses, solar filters for cameras and made hotel reservations in multiple cities along the path of totality well before “eclipse mania” set in. We also lined up viewing areas and events for every location under consideration.

Long logistical story short -we kept a constant eye on the weather forecast right up until the last minute. Time to cancel some hotel reservations, or pay for them all….

Gallatin Tennessee…. here we come!

 

It’s interesting to note that both of us have been to – or through – the Nashville area numerous times. But we had never been there together!  So it was fun to take a five day getaway revolving around the eclipse and have some serendipitous adventures along the way.  Of course two of those days involved long drives. Good thing Glhow brought some books along while Rambler struggled to remember why you often have to drive west to go east on the local freeway interchanges – and vice versa.  They say “All roads lead to Nashville” – but they don’t say the routing makes any sense.

Saturday, 8/19

The day begins with a morning departure from Frog Pond Farm.  We drop Daisy Dawg off for boarding, and then head west on I-40 for 13 hours. While we love our home near the coast, it’s nice to see the mountains now and again!  We even met some interesting “friends” along the way.

It was near dusk when we checked into our room. We don’t normally promote our lodgings; but the Residence Inn in Murfreesboro TN deserves a “shout-out”. It’s a really nice and new facility, conveniently located near the intersection of I-24 and I-840.  And some of the friendliest staff we’ve encountered in quite some time. Put this one on your list if you are in the area!

Sunday, 8/20

This was the only truly “relaxed” day of our mini-vacation.  We slept in for a bit, and enjoyed the hot breakfast at the hotel – and planned our day at the last minute.  What to do, what to do?

We decided to spend the afternoon at Arrington Vineyards, just a few miles from Murfreesboro.  This vineyard was founded and owned by Kix Brooks (of “Brooks and Dunn” fame, if you are into country music). Nestled into the hills of central Tennessee, this was a tasty and interesting side trip on our way to the eclipse.

We enjoyed a wine-tasting experience with a friendly sommelier, wandered the grounds a bit, and then settled into “The Barn” with a bottle of one of our favorites. There we enjoyed the classic and modern bluegrass tunes of the band “Grasstime”.  There is usually bluegrass in The Barn, and a jazz band in the courtyard if that is more to your taste.  Either way, you will also be serenaded by the sounds of the trains running behind the grounds. Can you get any more “Tennessee Hill Country” than that?

Monday, 8/21 – ECLIPSE DAY!

It’s time for the main event!  Gallatin is about an hour’s drive from Murfreesboro under the best of circumstances; so we made sure to grab a quick breakfast and leave early.  We enjoyed seeing the sunrise on this special day.

Eclipse oriented events also played a part in our final destination decision.  And the “GallatinTN Eclipse Encounter” hosted by the fine folks of Gallatin, Triple Creek Park and Sumner County Tennessee was first class!  We would like to thank all the sponsors, vendors, entertainers and especially the volunteers who made this event so enjoyable.

We arrived at a satellite parking area for the event at Triple Creek Park around 8am.  The kind folk of Gallatin and Sumner County were well prepared and organized for the hordes soon to descend on this prime spot for viewing the eclipse; right on the center line with a full 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality.

Triple Creek is a large municipal park; laid out with softball/baseball fields, soccer fields, hiking and biking trails, disc golf course, and numerous other activities.  On this day, a large portion of the park was set aside for live entertainment, vendors and catering to thousands of people from around the world for this “once in a lifetime” event.  The estimated attendance was somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 – with representation from 39 states and 20 countries!

We browsed around the area for a while, but were more focused on experiencing the eclipse itself. So we staked out a spot on a remote corner of the park away from the crowds – which we shared primarily with other sky-watchers and photographers.  We could still hear the bands from here, so it worked well for our needs.

Before getting into true shots of the eclipse itself – we’d like to share this series…..   If you missed totality from your viewing location, this will give you an idea of what it looked like “on the ground”.  All times are local – Central Daylight Time (GMT -5)

1:26pm – one minute before totality

1:27pm – totality imminent

1:28 pm – during totality, looking southwest

1:28pm – during totality – looking northwest

During the eclipse itself, we were both trying to capture the moment – and enjoy the moment.  After all, it was our first time!  So here is a series of shots from start through totality.  Sadly – most of our shots from the “back half” of the eclipse are unusable due to a humidity infiltration and inability to properly reattach lens filter after totality.  We promise to get more advance practice before the 2024 event!

11:49 am – 10 minutes before start of eclipse. Note 2 sets of sunspots!

12 noon – First Contact! First intrusion of moon onto solar disk.

12:16pm – serious bite into the solar disk.

12:29pm – we are into serious “Pac-Man” mode now!

12:55pm – now a “Banana Sun”. Ground light is starting to look like late afternoon if you are paying attention.

1:17pm – Shadows are deeper and more pronounced on ground.

1:27 – totality is imminent! The tension and excitement is palpable!

1:28pm Second Contact – Totality! The corona (atmosphere) of the Sun clearly visible to the naked eye.

Now here is an extra special shot…. you DO need to click this one and open it up to see the ‘treat’.  We backed off on the zoom, which throws the detail of corona a bit out of focus.  But it allows you to see a little dot of light on the left side, slightly above center.  We first thought we had finally seen Mercury, but sadly not so. Actually it’s the star Regulus, part of the constellation Leo. Mercury is a bit to the right, and lost to the coronal and limitations of our equipment (and skill).  It’s still pretty cool to demonstrate that yes, you can see planets and stars during an eclipse!

Corona and Regulus

 

1:30pm – Third Contact – Moon slides past to reveal the limb of the Sun again.

Wow!  We’ve heard people describe a total solar eclipse as a religious or spiritual experience.  Now we know why!  Seeing that black “hole in the sky” opening above you is truly awe inspiring.

This event also proved to us that “time is relative”.  Two and a half minutes of someone pulling out your fingernails would feel like an eternity.  The same amount of time under the eclipse flew by like the fleeting wings of a hummingbird.

 

After that experience, it seems sort of anti-climactic to talk about our adventures in Music City the following day.  Maybe that’s a post for later?  We’ll see.

In the meantime, we look forward to meeting you somewhere along the path of Total Lunacy in 2024!  We can hardly wait!

 

Photography Technical Information

Most of the general “landscape” photos you see on this post were made with a cell phone camera – either LG G3 or iPhone 7; depending on which of us took the shot. Some landscapes, and all of the “astro-photography” pics were taken with a “bridge camera” –  Sony Cybershot HX400V; with 2400mm equivalent zoom capability. They were taken using camera settings to take “bracketed” shots – 2 to 5 shots with multiple ISO and exposure settings combined into one picture.  Other than a bit of cropping, no other photo processing has been used.

Pictures with any portion of the solar disk in view used a Thousand Oaks 99.99% blocking solar filter.  The first “moon shot” and the shots of totality are in their own naked glory.

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Links

Arrington Vineyards

Great American Eclipse

Gallatin TN Eclipse Encounter

Sumner County TN Visitors Bureau

Official NASA Eclipse site

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