From Outside the Eclipse Shadow (Looking In)

The Great Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 has come and gone, and even for experiencing it “by proxy”, it was quite an emotional experience. As with so many wondrous celestial events that happen overhead here – it was cloudy – and I didn’t see any noticeable change to the light levels beyond that of a typical dreary day in Vancouver. But, watching on TV, I experienced a rolling eclipse for 1 hour 40 mins that started with Mazatlan, Mexico, and ended in Newfoundland. As totality ended in one location, it began somewhere else, and the TV stations did a great job moving with the 115 mile-wide eclipse shadow. It was so profound to see so many people held spellbound – maybe even transformed – by the experience. Knowing cerebrally what was about to happen and then experiencing it for themselves seemed to be two different things entirely.

Watching the coverage in Niagara Falls was perhaps the most emotional, as it was clear that most people there had resigned themselves to not seeing the corona due to cloud cover. But, for a few seconds during totality, the cloud cover peeled away and they got to observe the eclipse directly. They were transfixed and all the more appreciative.

Credit: Kendall Rust

I was in contact with people in Montreal – one whom I had encouraged to block time off work to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event, as well as a friend who had observed the 2017 eclipse in Jackson Hole. They were texting me as it got darker, and colder, and then afterwards about their experience. The one who hadn’t seen a total eclipse before remarked that they were surprised at how emotional it made them feel. None seem more moved than those that enter the eclipse with apathy – as they all unanimously exit in awe.

Another friend had the good fortune of being on an airplane that flew into the eclipse shadow on her way to New York. She explained that “it was like magic…it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.” There is nothing that compares to experiencing eclipse totality, it seems.

This has been heralded as one of the most highly documented eclipses, and the coverage from both here on Earth, as well as from the International Space Station and orbiting satellites, has been stunning. Although, those who experienced it with their own eyes say photos and videos truly do not do it justice. Yesterday, even with the naked eye, multiple “pink” prominences could be observed sprouting out from the Sun’s atmosphere, such as in the photo below.

I have yet to experience totality, although I have seen two “deep” eclipses, including 2017’s which reached an 86% eclipse maximum here. I hope to travel to Spain in 2026 to observe totality, or perhaps Australia and New Zealand in 2028. There’s one almost every 18 months on average if you’re willing to travel.

For now, I’m so glad so many people got to experience this special event, and contemplate our place in the universe – even if it was for only 90 seconds to 4.5 minutes.