Oregon Star Party Eclipse Edition and the lost 80 seconds

Dashboard summary

Yellow fringed darkening built in the western horizon; something eerie approaching rapidly; shouts of 'Diamond Ring, Diamond Ring'. I saw indescribable detail through the 10 inch wide angle telescope: bright pinkish prominences perched on the chromosphere’s rim surrounded by the green-blue corona ranging from fairy tendrils to loops to extended feathers. Suddenly, the second diamond ring, dazzling through the scope then disbelief, awe and excitement. 88 seconds of totality? I felt 8 seconds had gone by. 80 seconds had vanished somewhere.

Nearly a thousand people took in the eclipse at the star party – there was no yelling or jumping up and down – no time for that. After the eclipse stunned awe, accusations that the eclipse timing was off and desires to see another. I asked a number of people how long they thought the eclipse had lasted. Answers ranged from 8 to 15 seconds.

After seven solar eclipses I can confidently say that each is different. I will remember this one for the double Diamond Ring, the dreadful approaching shadow and the overall psychological quickness.

A punctured pattern of holes.

See how one finger is a little sharper in the horizontal direction and fuzzier in the vertical direction?

One of two weather balloons launched to 100,000 feet prior to the eclipse. They will be picked up several hundred miles downwind.

One way to see the partial phases is to catch the reflection of the Sun in water. Though the camera was mis-aimed missing the Sun, you get the idea.

Brian and Barbara enjoying the views through my H-Alpha band solar scope during the partial phase. With it I was able to see the 'Moon's atmosphere', a band of light just inside the Moon's shadow that extends just past the Sun's rim. It's an optical illusion.

The oncoming shadow.

I don't have images of totality because I concentrate visually in order to ingrain the eclipse in my memory. For images you might jump over to Greg Babcock's site.

A family enjoying the final partial phase.

I saw old friends that I hadn’t seen in years. In fact, a majority raised their hands at a presentation when asked if this was their first Oregon Star Party. We talked of old times, and looked forward to new times. Mike Dilley, a Eugene Astronomical Society member in the 1970’s who sported a domed and ultimately doomed observatory in his backyard in downtown Springfield before the light pollution era began, came with a 12.5 inch F/2.5 scope. I met eclipse chasers from Germany and Sweden and heard French and other languages – it was a very international star party.

The Telescope Walkabout sported a huge throng of perhaps 300. We had to form a much bigger circle. This year’s scopes ranged from cutting edge Tensegrity designs to a throwback giant refractor and a split-ring equatorial. I am so pleased that telescope making continues to thrive in all its variety.

The Star Party itself was expertly run and the food the best I can remember. It’s hard to pack food for six days: eating meals from the vendor on site was part of the plan. And O’Meara’s energy during his presentation was perfect, topped off by his wife’s selfie during an Indonesian eclipse when after jumping into a ‘banana’ boat and paddling out past the reef to get out from underneath the clouds, she announced that the boat was sinking then aimed the phone up at the eclipse shining through the one hole in the sky.

Three nights of exceptional transparency gave me the chance to discover new Integrated Flux Nebulae including a beautiful double winged IFN near the variable star CO Cam.

On the disgusting side I’ll mention but one name: Symbiosis. Their attendance, once capped at 15,000, swelled to 60,000, overwhelming the infrastructure, resulting in traffic jams, horrible accidents, closed roads, and a lost opportunity for the attendees to enjoy the heavens, ostensibly on center stage during the eclipse. Many OSP attendees were caught up overnight in their traffic jams. The festival blasted the night sky with powerful lights and loud music though we were ten miles away; Sunday night they swept the sky with searchlights the like I’ve never seen. Locals winced when I mentioned Symbiosis.

Coming in I had to take the backdoor route through Paulina because the traffic starting just east of Prineville was backed up to the Symbiosis entrance - a beautiful drive. Traffic was apocalyptic coming back to Prineville and Redmond (normal LA traffic for you Californians). We finally reached the flagger at the junction with Highway 26 who frustratingly said, ‘Traffic is backed up to John Day 1800 miles!'. Hours later I couldn’t turn south onto I-5 because the onramp was blocked: the road a sea of California license plates. Luckily it was free sailing on Hwy 99.

No internet connectivity other than text messaging for the first time in years at the OSP site. After nearly a week I turned on the radio for the first time. I didn't miss much and nothing much seemed to have changed.

Overall, OSP and the eclipse were wonderful though I’m still searching for 80 seconds of totality. See you at the next eclipse!

Mel Bartels