By TJ Lawrence
When you see the sun through eclipse glasses, you see a flat, pale orange disc. As that sliver slowly disappears behind the moon and the very edge of it vanishes, it flares up in certain spots to make miniscule round circles. The next second, they are gone. You can’t see anything anymore, so the glasses come off.
The average reaction to totality is probably something along the lines of whoa.
The moon is a pitch-black disc; a two-dimensional cutout hanging in the sky. It has an otherworldly, three-dimensional halo – the corona of the sun. It shifts and moves as you watch and lights the sky up like a full moon. The corona flares from within with milky white light, shimmering out against the darkness like the moon is radiating fog.
Everything is dark. It’s night in the middle of the day, and overwhelmingly foreign. Some people have brought their dogs, and they have all curled up and gone to sleep. You look around and see the rosy pink hues of sunset cover the clouds like paint, all the way around the horizon. Everyone else’s heads are tilted up at the sky.
The moon and sun are burning in the dark. Faint stars surround them, and Venus glows a little ways to their right. A cloud moves slightly, and suddenly they are out from behind it, twice as brilliant. The corona undulates. It seems almost opalescent. A portal to another world would look like this.
The brightness on one side of the moon thickens. Many pairs of glasses are simultaneously replaced. The tiny beads reappear, speckles of orange in a semicircle, then flare up in one spot as the sun peeks out from behind the moon. Totality is over, but there’s a little more to see.
Shadow snakes are visible against a pale, flat surface. They appear on a pale-colored asphalt parking lot. They are not exactly as “snaky” as advertised. Instead, they take the form of thin, barely perceptible ripples in the intensity of the light on the blacktop, faint zebra stripes of shadow. They race away from you at the pace of a swift jog for about thirty seconds, then vanish.
It’s been about two minutes, thirty seconds. It’s over.
*This is exactly what I saw. I was in Kingstree, South Carolina, at a really cool gathering of people from up and down the Eastern Seaboard who had come to see the eclipse. The eclipse was spectacular, they had great food, and we met some nice people. Everyone was a bit worried about the clouds, which covered the partial phases a few times, but we saw almost all of totality through clear skies.