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Eclipse 2017—Wow!

Like millions of Americans and welcome guests, my family ventured to the path of totality—perhaps the most cosmic-sounding thing to which we have ever traveled—looked up, and saw for the first and maybe only time the black Moon crowned by the hidden Sun.

NASA map of eclipse path of totality across Nebraska, 2017.08.21.
NASA map of eclipse path of totality across Nebraska, 2017.08.21.

We almost missed it. We joined family in Lincoln and drive south toward Beatrice to a grassy triangle on Hackberry Road. The crescent Sun dodged in and out of clouds, but as totality approached, the bank of clouds that had loomed our way all morning lurched over our viewing spot. Good blue was scarce and too far. At T-minus 15 minutes, we saddled up and gambled on catching some thinner haze to the south.

(Note for future reference: do not drive while wearing eclipse glasses.)

We cruised along gravel, imagining a million people along this slanty sash across Nebraska going home depressed. To our southeast, a weird seam in the clouds glowed aqua green. Around T-minus 4 minutes, we called it, here or nowhere. We pulled onto the grass—no deep ditch, just a strip of mowed grass between us and soybeans. The sky west darkened beneath the rain cloud we’d fled, but below it farther west and north, the sky turned sunset gold.

And above—yes, above, the clouds yielded to the crescent Sun, a thinner, more brilliant crescent than the Moon can ever be but which only the Moon can make. Sliver, sliverer, sliverest… and my eclipse-shades went dark. I stripped them off, thinking the clouds had w—


My wife's camera's impression of us seeing wonder. 2017.08.21.
My wife’s camera’s impression of us seeing wonder. 2017.08.21.
My camera's faint impression of the wonder we saw, 2017.08.21.
My camera’s faint impression of the wonder we saw, 2017.08.21.

I took pictures for maybe twenty seconds. I took mind pictures for the other minute-plus of totality. Around the moon, through wisps of haze, million-degree-hot plasma driven into space by nuclear fusion 94 million miles away shone silver blue.

The moon moved on, chasing our whirling world east, yielding to that nuclear fire that gives us shadows and life.


Postscript: The same law firm that calculates productivity losses due to the NCAA March basketball tournament estimates that Americans lost $694 million in disrupted productivity today. Maybe, maybe not, but look unto the heavens, today and every day, and know that money isn’t everything.


  1. Wade Brandis 2017-08-21 22:09

    I had to watch the Eclipse mostly on TV. Thunderstorms went through the Winner area just the hour before the peak eclipse. There was clouds, but patches of blue sky were visible. Winner is outside the totality zone, but the effects of the eclipse were very apparent. The sunlight and sky became half as bright as normal for a 10 to 15 minute period. I didn’t have eclipse glasses so I was unable to see the shadow in the sun by myself.

    I turned to TV to see the eclipse live. ABC and the Weather Channel had rather good coverage moving from various eclipse hot spots and showing off totality to the nation. It’s definitely not as great as actually seeing an eclipse in person, but it was still amazing to see just how quickly it turns dark, and turning back to day just as fast.

  2. mike from iowa 2017-08-22 08:00

    We had heavy clouds and dark skies and it got darker (relatively speaking) as the eclipse progressed. Our birds just ignored the darkening skies and then the floodgates opened and it just poured needed rain for nearly an hour.

    Too bad I missed seeing the eclipse, but I happily settled for the rain. Plus the skies never lightened much until after 5:00PM.

  3. Buckobear 2017-08-22 08:03

    Traveled to Broken Bow, NE (wife’s childhood home) for the event. Awoke on Monday morn to thick fog which burned off by 10am. Only clouds were high “mare’s tails” and they didn’t interfere.
    The totality itself was amazing and worth the trip. That moment when the last sliver of the sun’s disk disappears is heart-stopping!
    P.S. — it was worth at least 694 million !!

  4. Robert McTaggart 2017-08-22 09:26

    No blue skies in Brookings, but we got to see some of a partial eclipse through the clouds. Eventually heavier clouds took over at the peak. Good crowd showed up.

  5. Mike Henriksen 2017-08-22 10:06

    Sensational. The traffic back was awful, but it was to be expected. Once in a lifetime!

  6. grandma 2017-08-22 10:19

    We were in the car in Humboldt when it went totally dark. Clouds were there but it was really nice to see how dark it got. Enjoyed the darkness and lights on a string of vehicles on the
    ride home. I hadn’t seen this before. Lots of heavy rain in SF when we left and none on the way home. Interesting. Hope you all had a good time seeing it!!!

  7. Spencer 2017-08-22 11:07

    The skies were perfect just to the west in Grand Island though the traffic getting into the Stuhr Museum was a nightmare.

  8. Porter Lansing 2017-08-22 11:17

    @Spencer … Miss your appearances on Cory’s podcast. Have a great autumn. :)

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-22 12:00

    [Different Spencer, Porter… though I would welcome this Spencer for a conversation, too!]

  10. W R Old Guy 2017-08-22 13:07

    We went south to Hemingford, NE as we thought Alliance and Carhenge would be too crowded. We had low clouds in Chadron but they cleared by the time we got to Hemingford. The town was not crowded except for the convenience store on the east edge of town where the line for the restrooms stretched out the door. We found the city park/pool (pool closed) to be uncrowded and had an excellent view of the total eclipse. It lasted about 10 seconds less than in Alliance. We talked to a gentleman from Albuquerque who had come through Alliance and confirmed that the town was packed. He also drove by Carhenge and found a large crowd with the at least one local charging a $50.00 parking fee.

    I was surprised at how quickly things went dark during the total part of the eclipse. It was like someone turned off a switch. I didn’t see any unusual behavior by the animals in the area and no one tried to get naked and dance (as far as I know).

    It was well worth the trip.

  11. Adam 2017-08-23 01:32

    I had a fantastic view – south of Lusk WY.

    Man, oh man, it was awesome. Words cannot describe it. It was spectacular at the least.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-23 08:23

    No nudity at our site, either, WROldGuy, although the boys in the truck with Pennington County plates about a hundred yards south of us did light up some doobage to dispel the darkness. As the sun returned, the breeze picked up and washed out the herbal smell with the aroma of cow poop from yonder farm. (I prefer the cow poop.)

    South of Lusk! That’s some high lonesome country… which I can easily imagine enhancing the viewing experience.

    I’m surprised anybody could make money charging for parking for an event that is happening along countless public country roads.

  13. Helen 2017-08-23 08:47

    I viewed the eclipse from Carhenge near Alliance, NE – paid a very small fee to park ($10.00). Lots of room, lots of friendly people and an incredible experience. Well worth the time and traffic.

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