The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017

Washington DC did not see a total solar eclipse, but there was at least one small part of it in the path of totality on August 21st — in Nebraska.

These four sandstone columns were once part of the Department of the Treasury, until they were detached in 1908 and moved to Pioneers Park, Lincoln, Nebraska in 1916. It was to this artifact of historic Washington that I traveled, to watch the moon slide in front of the sun and shroud the area in darkness, above me a ring of silvery coronal fire piercing through darkened clouds.

Eclipse 2017

I had read that the experience of totality produced a kind of primal fear in some viewers, an irrational sense of ominous doom; or in others, a sense of expanded cosmic awareness of the universe. I didn’t feel any of that, but I did get goose bumps of awe. (It’s entirely possible that I just live in a constant state of ominous doom and cosmic awareness.) Mostly I just stared at that silvery ring, mumbling to myself, “There’s the shadow, ooooh prominences, wooow” while letting the camera trigger run through exposure cycles.

Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure Eclipse 2017 Single LE HDR Exposure

Post-totality I also met Thomas, who didn’t just watch the eclipse, he was the eclipse. We talked a bunch about space and forklifts and Nebraska and DC, and he gave me a ride back to my parking spot.

Portrait of Man as Solar Eclipse

This was a same-day round trip and sadly there wasn’t time to drive into Lincoln and see the sights before going to the airport. Instead I hiked around Pioneers Park a bit to see the Prairie and Nature Centers. There was an injured barn owl at the Nature Center who had gotten used to waking at daytime hours to interact with guests. Apparently she had fallen asleep during totality, thinking it was night, and was still sleeping when I got there.

Pioneers Park
Pioneers Park
Sleepy Barn Owl, Pioneers Park Nature Center

It was a 22 hour journey, much of it spent aboard planes, in airports, or driving a rental Nissan Rogue around the Lincoln area, all for a minute and a half of cloudy celestial twilight above four grimy sandstone columns. It was worth the trip.

Total Solar Eclipse at The Columns

Full eclipse photoset here, and GoPro eclipse video here.

Next total solar eclipse on Earth will be 2 July 2019 over Chile and Argentina, and next total solar eclipse to cross North America will be 8 April 2024; so make your plans now, I guess?

Prelude to an Eclipse

I’m on a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska, looking out the window at a sun soon to be obscured by the moon.

Clouds above and below IAD-ORD-LNK

I hadn’t originally planned to travel for the Great American Eclipse of 2017, figuring it would be enough to glance at the partial eclipse from DC today; but then I read the stories:

With all this I decided to give eclipse-chasing a try, and burned some airline reward miles on a same-day round trip to Lincoln, NE, with a car rental to get farther south and deeper into the shadow of totality. I’m torn between viewing the eclipse from Pioneers Park, which has four pillars that connect the eclipse site back to DC, or the Homestead National Monument, which will provide a full minute more of totality — precious seconds where an eclipse is involved — but as a NASA broadcast site and major venue event, will probably be more crowded. It’ll depend on the clouds more than anything else.

Of related interest: 18 second solar eclipse in Uganda, 2013.

(Many thanks to my wife and kid for letting me disappear to the heartland for a day to experience about two minutes of staring at a darkened sun.)

Baby Ezra Update: Dedication, Museum, Zoo

More recent milestones for our son at 13-14 months of age: his dedication at First Baptist DC with Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell. (As Baptists we don’t baptize babies but we do have a dedication ceremony where the infant is presented to the congregation with prayers.)

Ezra's Baby Dedication

Also his first times visiting a Smithsonian museum (Natural History) and the National Zoo, standard must-visits for any DC-area resident.

Baby's First Smithsonian Trip Baby's First Smithsonian Trip
Ezra's First Zoo Trip Ezra's First Zoo Trip

Another milestone: his first time in a swimming pool, the shallow kiddie wading pool to start. (I’ll spare you the photos of me in trunks for this one.)

Snake and Fly

Wildlife spotted around the neighborhood this weekend: a little Eastern garter snake and a big robber fly.

Little Snake

Jones Point

We took a walk around Jones Point Park last weekend, once the southern tip of the District of Columbia’s boundaries when it still included Alexandria, VA. Ezra came along of course.

Amy and Ezra at Jones Point #throughglass

By the old lighthouse there still sits the District’s southernmost boundary marker stone, below ground level and darkly viewable under a glass shield.

Jones Point Lighthouse #throughglass
Old DC Boundary Stone #throughglass

Underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge also made for some interesting views, along with the archaeological display of a wooden rudder found on the Potomac River bed.

Woodrow Wilson Bridge #throughglass
Old Wood Ship Rudder #throughglass

Jones Point is along the Mount Vernon Trail between DC and George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. There are decent facilities if you need a nice place to bring kids near Old Town Alexandria.

Ten Years, One Year

Two significant anniversaries as of this month: Amy and I have been married 10 years, and our son Ezra is 1 year old! Every day of the last decade and the last year, my wife and son have been visible signs to me of the good Lord’s grace and love.

Ten years ago, one year ago, and last weekend:

RRS_1573 Baby Ezra, 29 hours old Ezra's first trip to National Harbor, MD

(That was Ezra’s first trip to National Harbor. He got happier when he learned how sunglasses work.)

Ezra's first trip to National Harbor, MD

More: Photos of our wedding and photos of our son.

Old Town Piece of Rainbow

Old Town Rainbow Segment

Spotted this short segment of rainbow to the east while my train was stopped at King Street Metro in Old Town Alexandria VA.

Fisheye Forest Shots

Some late afternoon photos of the forest near home, casually shot with my GoPro on the walk home from Metro. The wide-angle view adds a moody looming distortion effect, curved tree trunks appearing to subtly frame the scene.

Forest Forest Fisheye Forest

Cherry Blossoms 2017

Cherry Blossoms

End of March was the earliest we’ve seen cherry blossom peak bloom come, owing to an especially warm winter. Baby Life didn’t leave us much time or energy to brave tourist crowds for cherry blossom viewing, but I was able to take a weekday lunch break to run down to the Tidal Basin and snap a few photos with my NEX3N and VCLECF1 fisheye lens.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms

Also nice that some of the streets in our neighborhood were lined with cherry trees so even if we couldn’t make it to DC there were blossoms right around the block, which our infant son got to see on a sick day, too.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms

More 2017 cherry blossom photos here, and my collection of DC cherry blossom photosets going back to 2004.