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A Graph of Solar Eclipse Coolness: Totality or GTFO

A partial eclipse is like a cool sunset. A total eclipse is like someone broke the sky

As usual, XKCD is spot on with this graph of solar eclipse coolness as a function of distance from the path of totality. The image’s alt text reads:

A partial eclipse is like a cool sunset. A total eclipse is like someone broke the sky.

See also the 2017 version. After witnessing the 2017 total solar eclipse, I wrote:

We saw the Baily’s beads and the diamond ring effect. And then…sorry, words are insufficient here. When the Moon finally slipped completely in front of the Sun and the sky went dark, I don’t even know how to describe it. The world stopped and time with it. During totality, Mouser took the photo at the top of the page. I’d seen photos like that before but had assumed that the beautifully wispy corona had been enhanced with filters in Photoshop. But no…that is actually what it looks like in the sky when viewing it with the naked eye (albeit smaller). Hands down, it was the most incredible natural event I’ve ever seen.

Vi Hart:

I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but this wasn’t it. I’d seen photos of coronas around suns, but this wasn’t that. And I’d expected that those photos, like many astronomical pictures, are long exposure, other wavelengths, and otherwise capturing things the naked eye can’t see. I thought there might be a glow of light in a circle, or nothing, or, I don’t know. What I did not expect was an unholy horror sucking the life and light and warmth out of the universe with long reaching arms, that what I’d seen in pictures was not an exaggeration but a failure to capture the extent of this thing that human eyes, and not cameras, are uniquely suited to absorb the horror of.

Annie Dillard:

I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.

I am so looking forward to Monday and crossing my fingers for clear skies — the path of totality goes right over my house.

Discussion  12 comments

Caroline G.

I am VERY EXCITED about this!

Mark Van Cleve

Same here (Rochester NY). Hotels are all completely booked, and the freeway road signs are all EXPECT EXTREME DELAYS.

Ben Kelley

Forecast looks good as of now. 🤞

XKCD hits the nail on the head.

In our weekend logistics group chat people were talking about bringing glasses etc… My reply was, we’re coming to Vermont for the part where we don’t need glasses.

Jason KottkeMOD

The glasses are good to have though. The sun does look really cool at 10-99% totality through the glasses — and you'll have something to compare to how much more awesome totality is.

Ben Kelley

Oh yeah for sure, glasses are key-I realize I may have inadvertently implied otherwise. And not just for looking at partiality, but also for taking goofy pictures 🤓

But the difference (might one say it?) is night and day. Otherwise I’d stay here in Boston and still get the goofy glasses pictures.

I enjoyed 2017 so much I went to Chile in 2019.

Reply in this thread

Eric Roling

I drove down from MN to Nebraska for the 2017 event and it was clouded over, but still awe inspiring. I've had April 8 on my radar for years, but now that it's close I have some family things to address that may prevent a long road trip to southern MO/IL or northern AR. What is the best cloud cover predictor that people are trusting for this?

Jared Crookston

Good to know that it can be awe-inspiring still with cloud cover. Forecast is not great for my house, but latest discussion is that it may be high level clouds that we can see through more than thick low level clouds. I like using the Clear Outside app to try and pick nights for looking at stars, but their forecast can change quickly as the day approaches.

John W Davie

Natl Weather Service does have some forecasting on sky cover. Not a weather expert myself. So, not sure how reliable it is. But as of Wed they are showing it being pretty clear Mon.

Eric Roling

Jared - with clouds, I lost the chance to see the corona/diamond ring, but still got full occlusion, everything got dark, and the birds and insects went nuts.

Reply in this thread

Adam Rose

I have had this on my calendar since the one in 2017! I only saw a partial eclipse that day due to work, but my circumstances have changed for the better now. The extended forecast has been fluctuating between partially sunny (or partially cloudy?) and clear for the time of totality.

Clear skies!

Josh Schoenwald

Our family booked flights to Dallas months ago. Weather looking very dicey right now but fingers crossed we get a sliver of blue sky before what looks like some incoming rain. If we don't get a clear sky then I'll roll the dice again in 2044!

Jordan Warshavsky

Well… this tipped me over the edge.

Seeing as I have less sand in the top of the hourglass than I do in the bottom these days… made frenetic last second reservations Tampa to Burlington. (Man I miss Killington in Jan/Feb)

Get in @ 1:17pm on Monday… and will walk to Vet mem park if I have to.

I think it’s my ethereal memories of May ‘84 in NYC (2nd grade) and Vi Hart’s description that pushed me over the edge.

So excited now.

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