This was our second total solar eclipse; the first being in 2017 in Charleston, South Carolina. I cannot remember why I decided that I needed to experience a total solar eclipse. Maybe it was the Science Friday programs on NPR that described the magicalness of the event. Maybe it was my Dad describing when he first experienced one and the animals started behaving queerly during that couple minutes of nighttime in the middle of the day. Whatever it was, I am now a grateful solar eclipse traveler.

Instead of leaving the kids behind, this time, Star, Jamie, Meg and I brought 3 of the 4 kids. Henry got to meet an online friend that he has been playing with for nearly 2 years without ever seeing the person let alone being in the same physical space. They are super close, and the friendship continued as we hiked and ate lunch together.

The next day was the main event. We headed west towards Summit Mall where the cloud forecast was more favorable than east Ohio. After a short lunch, there was a frantic search for my wallet. I obsessively keep my wallet in my back pocket and check for it nearly every time I stand up or change settings. But somewhere between the Asian food counter and me standing up to throw away my trash, my pocket was empty. Retracing my steps and checking with the cashier and mall security was unsuccessful. I guess I will never know if I was clumsy, forgetful, or pick-pocketed.

Our group gathered our wits and moved forward to find a field to watch the eminently approaching shadow. The park that was only 15 minutes from the mall ended up having park rangers or officers blocking the entrance. Thanks for your service officers. Down the road was a cemetery with an open gate and about 3 cars of people having the same idea. We parked and found a small patch of grass among the tombstones. There were no police officers there preventing us from visiting our long-lost relatives from a state we have never been to.

We spread out and started to prepare. There are many ways to enjoy the event. A large family nearby celebrated by cracking open some cold beers and sitting back in lawn chairs. A group of 4 elderly citizens formed a semi-circle with their chairs and prepared quietly for the event. Some people find quiet solitude is best to take in all the sights and sounds. Others enjoy the company of family and friends.

a. Sam in solitude taking it in, b. Meg, Jamie, Leah, and Henry snuggling.

Then there are your obsessive folks who have been waiting to capture that perfect picture. I spent much of my time adjusting the camera angle and fixing the manual settings. A test picture here and there were all unsuccessful when the bright sun is not shadowed.

Matt and Sam trying to see if solar glasses on the lens would help.

But the most important thing to do is to don the special solar glasses and look up. There is plenty of time to watch the sun and moon slowly get into alignment as the sun starts to form a crescent. I was unable to get a good picture of what we are seeing through the glasses. That is just something you are going to have to view first hand or see a picture online.

Images of Meg, Henry, and Sam looking up through the solar glasses.

A couple minutes before the big event, the area started to get darker and colder like a large storm was approaching even though the sky was clear. As the final sliver started to wane, we waited for that instant where the sun was covered and we could remove our glasses. It was breathtaking. In my mind, the dark circle covering the sun and the corona highlighting the edges was enormous. In my mind, the sun and moon are about 2-3x their actual size due to the uniqueness of this event. Unworldly. Science fiction. Black hole. Solar flares visible to the naked eye. Snapping pictures but also trying to stop and look up. Wanting to get the perfect shot while realizing that this moment of excellence is fading fast. I didn’t even have time to look around at the rest of the sky or the horizon because I couldn’t stop staring at the sun. I was told you could see some other planets/stars and it looked like a sunset all around.

And before you know it, more and more corona light appears at the bottom. The sun’s piercing light shouts with rage as it pops back through requiring us to reach for our glasses again. This one shot shows that instance.

The sun pierces back through the shadow blinding the camera again.

We sit and talk about how amazing that was. How it was even better than the last one we saw 7 years ago as if we can fairly remember that event. We scroll through our pictures showing how great they are. We ask the kids what they think. “It was cool,” as they look forward to getting back to their screens and friends.

Here is a gallery of some of the photos of the event. 2024 Solar Eclipse Gallery

Here are some interesting facts we learned when researching total solar eclipses. A total solar eclipse will happen on a given track of land about once every 400 years. The next total solar eclipse in the continental United States won’t be until 2044 and it will only be up near the Canada border before the sun sets and it disappears. The reason total solar eclipses are so rare is because the moon’s orbit is about 5 degrees off axis as compared to the earth’s orbit around the sun. That means there are only a couple times a year when the orbits are aligned. But, the moon needs to be a new moon to get a total solar eclipse. The combination of being in the correct moon cycle along with the correct orbit about the sun and having the shadow fall over a populated land mass means there is only a total solar eclipse about once every 1-3 years with many of those being at the poles or over the ocean.

Thanks for reading.