By Brendan Loy
Tomorrow, America will experience its first annular eclipse since May 10, 1994. Weather permitting, I’ll get to see it as an 85% partial eclipse in Denver — the second solar eclipse I’ve ever witnessed, and the first since (again) May 10, 1994. It will also be the first solar eclipse I’m witnessed safely, with proper eye protection.
On May 10, 1994, I saw the partial phase of that day’s annular eclipse from inside a bus near Historic Jamestowne, VA, catching a glimpse for a split-second with my naked eye — which you should not do, as it’s dangerous. Thankfully, my eyes were not damaged. They could have been!
Why was I on a bus in Virginia, you ask? Well, it was day 2 of the annual Martin Kellogg Middle School seventh-grade class trip to Washington and Williamsburg. I was, uncharacteristically, not tuned in to astronomical events of the day; I don’t think I even knew about the eclipse, or else I had forgotten, until our bus’s lead chaperone, Mr. Spitzer, mentioned it. When he did so, and before he could utter the next sentence (reminding us NOT TO LOOK DIRECTLY AT IT), I instinctively turned my head to the left, looked out the window, glanced up, and saw it. Being an astronomy nerd with knowledge of such things, I knew better than this — but I couldn’t help myself. I immediately looked away, and then blurted out something like, “You’re right, I just saw it!”
This all happened in a split second, and gave Mr. Spitzer the perfect segue into his next sentence, telling everyone NOT TO DO WHAT LOY JUST DID. (In fairness to Mr. Spitzer, I think he actually may have said “now, I don’t want you to look at it, but…” before he even mentioned the eclipse — an admonition I promptly ignored — and then merely reiterated the point after I looked.)
Anyway, I discovered this evening that, down in the basement, in our box of photo albums, inside my Williamsburg Trip Scrapbook (a post-trip homework assignment in Mrs. Weber’s class), there is my account of that day! I had forgotten this even exists. We had to write a little something about each day of the trip, and include photos and whatnot; I went above and beyond, giving each day an extended, detailed write-up, and include a ton of photos, souvenirs, etc. I know you’re shocked. :) Anyway, here’s the relevant part of the May 10 write-up, followed by a relevant photo and, er, illustration.
(Before I go on, a key point of clarification: the “tape recorder” in question is an audio recorder only. You’ll understand why that’s important when you read my write-up.)