Is That It?

What Really Happened with the Eclipse

By: Lillian Barry and Madison High

The pristine white circumference of the moon, called the corona, gleams as the Moon completely obscures the Sun. (Photo: Nathaniel Baines)

Two minutes and 40 seconds of darkness. Ohhhh, wow, can’t I just turn the lights off in my room for that? Okay, so maybe two minutes and 40 seconds of dark doesn’t seem like a big deal for you, especially when in third grade you were bragging to your friends that you finally got rid of your Thomas the Tank Engine night light. But guess what? This is a solar eclipse, and it is not just the sky going dark, but it is the sky turning into a beautiful summer dusk to reveal a sunset with the orchestra of nightlife playing for the shining ring above. It has to be realized that what we saw, and being in the path of totality of such mileage of this eclipse, is a once in a lifetime thing.

First of all, an eclipse is caused when the Moon’s axis lines up perfectly with the Earth’s and the Moon passes directly in front of the Sun. Former astronomy instructor and current freshman science teacher Ken Cook explains to us how solar eclipses work and why they’re so rare.

“Theoretically, it can happen every 29 ½ days but they’re not on the exact same plane, so that’s the reason they don’t happen somewhere every month,” explains Cook.

The moon causes two shadows, the penumbra (the larger shadow that causes a partial eclipse) and the umbra (a much smaller shadow that only covers a 70-mile-wide area), also called the Path of Totality. Unfortunately, only the southern part of Barren County was in that path. Many students at the school were unaware that they would not be able to see totality, which made the eclipse seem overrated and unlike what people expected it to be. This is only because of location, which Barren County was just 20 miles from the path of totality and thus still had a great view of what was predicted to be around 99% totality.
The Path of Totality stretched from Scottsville’s Dumont Hill Park to Bowling Green’s Chaney’s Dairy Farm, as well as reaching other beautiful spectating sights. At 11:58 A.M., we put on our eclipse glasses and looked up at the sun. At the very top right of the giant celestial body, the moon was barely beginning to make its appearance. Anticipation was building  in everyone as more and more of the sun was being blocked over the course of an hour; therefore, the sky was getting darker. All at once it began making transitions of colors, turning from light blue to purple, pink, and orange and then nearly pitch-black. All the birds in the area stopped chirping and nocturnal insects such as crickets and cicadas started to come out to perform their nighttime pieces. Stars were beginning to become visible and one particularly bright “star” seemed to stand out to everyone, although it was actually the planet Jupiter. (Who would have thought you could see both an eclipse and the largest planet disguised as the largest star?)

Everyone looked up, nearly breaking their necks, while staring up at the sky as the moon finally covered the sun entirely. Cheers echoed through the park as the corona began to be apparent, and a strange bond formed between the spectators.

We were finally able to take off our glasses and watch the eclipse in its entirety, with a distinguishing ring of pristine white that received only awe. After what seemed like merely seconds, the moon was beginning to move off the sun which meant that it was time to put our glasses back on so that we did not blind ourselves. It seemed that it did not last long enough.   

Some students and staff at BCHS seemed disappointed as there was not totality within the part of Barren County that BCHS is located. Many students had not been told that they would only see a partial eclipse. Even though many classes did not spend much of class time outside doing activities other than watching the eclipse, some teachers planned whole lessons to take their students outside. Cook decided that he was going to take his class outside and do some things with them.

“I mean, a lot of people learn better hands-on, and I could teach you all the facts about the eclipse, but it’s so much better when you can see it for yourself and learn that it’s real. It’s just a hands-on opportunity and a learning event that’s not going to be back around in your school time, especially,” admitted Cook.

Because of how hyped up the eclipse was the by the media, it was pretty underwhelming to not be in the path of totality. But hey, maybe when the next total eclipse in the U.S. happens, we will all be around to see it.

Let’s admit, we all did this at least once.