Great American Eclipse

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

Before and after totality

For those who did not hear, or see, there was a total solar eclipse visible from North American soil on August 21st. It was the first solar eclipse total total solar eclipse visible in the Lower 48 since February 26, 1979, and the first total solar eclipse visible from one coast to the other since June 8, 1918. It will not be visible here again until April 8, 2024. For many American astronomers, and amateur astronomers, it was a spectacular event. It drew large crowds in those places where the total eclipse will be completely visible.

Such as Carbondale, IL. NASA, the Adler Planetarium, and SIU-C held a joint event to view the eclipse at the SIU campus. With my need to see new things, and my past as a physics student, I naturally had to see this event for myself.

My wife and I took the 4 hour trip south to see it. We were joined by one of my former IWU professors, and two of his students.

Leaving early in the morning so that we can find a place to park and stand, we arrived to find Carbondale crawling with people from all over the region to view the moon crossing the sun. Luckily we did not hit traffic too badly heading south. We parked, and hopped on the shuttle to campus.

Once we got there, Professor Perera set up his telescope and camera, and we waited for the main event. I handed out shaded glasses to everyone, and we were all able to look up at the sun and watch the moon pass over. It was a cool looking sight.

It was a clear, sunny day all day, despite concerns from the weatherman that it was going to be rainy and cloudy in the afternoon. However, once totality was nearing, the one cloud in the sky covered the sun and would not go away.

Poorly timed cloud cover.

Totality lasted just under 2 minutes and 40 seconds. That cloud hovered for more than a minute into totality. Luckily, right as I was about to give up hope for being able to see it for myself, the cloud cleared, and totality was visible. Everybody cheered. It was stunning.

Totality. Credit to Ms. Lopez, one of the group members

After it was over, we stayed to watch the moon completely clear the sun, then got dinner at a local Chile’s. My wife thought she was clever (yeah, it was clever).

You can see the Corona peaking from behind the (Blue) Moon

Another 4 hour drive home, traffic being heavier than heading south, and we were home by midnight. It was a long and fulfilling day.

The total eclipse next year will be February 15, and would only be visible in southern South America. Who wants to come with?!

Or we can wait until 2024, and go back to Carbondale.

By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois

As my wife was driving to Peoria today with me in the car, we both mentioned that we do not understand how people can say that everywhere else in the world is so beautiful, and Illinois is so boring and lacks beauty. Clearly, these people have never been here. Ironically, the people who say this are those who have been born and raised here in Illinois.

Bloomington-Normal to Peoria is a short drive, and a common commute distance. Yet the shades of green in just the short drive are phenomenal and very diverse. Not to mention the yellow prairie flowers that occasionally break through the green background.

Being a mostly rural state, there is a lot of agriculture that dominates the landscaping. So, yes, hours of hours of corn and beans as far as the eye can see definitely gets boring to look at. Yet, the ground is hilly, providing shadows and contrast. No, we are not as hilly as the mountain lands, but we are not as flat as say Nebraska and Kansas, etc. The land is criss-crossed with rivers and streams, not to mention bordered by the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. There is also a fair number of lakes and ponds peppered throughout, also bordered to the northeast by Lake Michigan (not just Chicago and suburbs!). With water means trees and flora. With flora means deer, large birds, and other megafauna.

Outside of Chicago, there are a number of small towns. No, I do not mean Bloomington-Normal or Peoria. I do not even mean Pontiac! There are a lot of towns with no more than a couple thousand people. These are the towns where the bars are going to be the go to places. They may only have a bar to visit, other than a post office. The bars are going to have a “dive” feel to them, and are going to be patroned by farmers or other blue collar workers. If you ever want to know what is going on in small town America, these bars are the place to be.

The architecture here is 100% Americana. Small farm houses painted with muted colours, surrounded by picket fences. Water towers in the distance. Downtowns with rows of two story buildings, dating to the 1800s, early 1900s. Time moves slowly here. It would be similar to Missouri and Iowa, and other cornbelt states. 

This song as good shots of what I mean:

I never expect Central Illinois to be a touristy location, not by a long shot. But just because it is not the busy urban life, nor the majestic mountains, nor the beautiful sea, does not mean that it does not have beauty. For those who do not live in small town Illinois, or even small town America, go out and spend a day in a town no larger than 10,000 people. Enjoy the small shops, the diners and bars where every patron and staff member know each other. Enjoy the Americana for what it is, and not the idealised caricature of it at Disneyland or Broadway. For those who do live here, spend a day to enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. I am well aware of how boring it can get, but a lot of that boredom stems not actually seeing the surroundings because we are blinded by being surrounded by it.