Tonight's lunar eclipse wasn't the first one I've seen. But I'm always fascinated by eclipses.
I've seen partial lunar eclipses. I've seen total eclipses. And they're all cool.
But the coolest eclipse I ever saw was not a lunar eclipse.
It was a solar eclipse. The total eclipse of March 7, 1970.
That eclipse hit the southeastern U.S.
It hit the U.S. mainland in Florida, near Perry. It travelled in a northeast path, into Georgia, east of Valdosta, and west of Waycross, Jesup, Hinesville, and Savannah, then just west of the Carolinas coast, and out to sea after passing over Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Our house was about 3-4 miles east of the centerline of the eclipse. And we got just over three minutes of totality.
We were out in the front yard. Trees in the back yard made viewing the sun less desirable. But the front yard was wide open.
We went out, nearly to the road (the house sat ... and my parents' house still sits ... on a U.S. highway).
Around noon, if I remember correctly, the eclipse started.
A tiny bit of the sun was covered by the moon. Not noticeable at first. But, after a bit, you could tell the sun wasn't all there.
Little by little, more and more of the sun was obscured by the moon.
Hard to tell, looking at the sun. Dangerous, too.
I had one of those pinhole viewers, where you look at the sun on a piece of cardboard. Maybe you know what I'm talking about.
You hold the piece of cardboard with the pinhole in it up, a few inches from another piece of cardboard (white works best). And, you can see the image of the sun on the bottom piece.
And, no, it wasn't nearly as much fun as it sounds.
And, since it would take a while before the sun was totally blocked by the moon, we went back inside and watched TV.
News outlets had set up neat the Okefenokee Swamp, in order to get the maximum total eclipse.
So, we watched TV, showing what the sky looked like. Almost the exact same scene. They were a minute or two ahead of us in the path of totality.
We watched for a bit, grew bored, and went back outside to look at all the people who had pulled over beside the road to watch the sun disappear.
We'd look up at the sky, watching the sun continue to be chipped away. Then we'd look at the travelers who stopped to watch the event.
Then, about 20 minutes after 1:00, it happened.
You could almost hear and feel the blanket of darkness come upon us.
It sounded like ... silence.
It felt like ... an absence.
Light wasn't removed so much as darkness was applied.
The shadow of the moon come us on like a quilt being thrown over a fresh-made bed.
And the sun was gone. Replaced by a black hole in the sky.
And the total eclipse had begun.
For three minutes and five seconds, I watched an event that would likely never see again in my lifetime.
And suddenly, it was over.
As quickly as it came over us, it left us. The shadow moved on, and the sun began it's return to the sky.
But for just over three minutes, I got to experience a total eclipse of the sun.
It was awesome.