Eclipse So Good

The few humans fortunate enough to go to space report a phenomenon known as “The Overview Effect”. It’s a state of awe astronauts experience when looking down on the earth from above. Those who’ve experienced it describe it as life changing, and it would appear the moment is different for each person.

On the 8th April 2024, a path across North America – including Montreal – experienced a total solar eclipse. I think it’s perhaps the closest any of us can come to experiencing the Overview Effect here on Earth. For less than a minute, those present looked up and witnessed something extraordinary.

I’m incredibly fortunate living in a city which was along the path of totality. If the odds weren’t long enough already we also had perfectly clear skies for unobstructed views.

Montreal was at the edge of the totality that day. In fact, only half of the island experienced the total eclipse.

It all happens very quickly.

The air cools, the sky becomes dark. To the north, the horizon glows orange where the light outside totality is still present. To the south where the area of totality stretches, darkness. Stars appear. As the light goes out it visibly flickers, like a dying candle.

And then it’s there in the sky. A glowing, living corona around a centre so black it almost defies description. Even the best photos I’ve seen don’t come close to how crisp and alive it looked to my own eyes.

It’s the only time in my life I’ll ever get to look directly at the sun with the naked eye, and in that short moment where the sun couldn’t burn into my retina, it instead burnt a memory into my mind.

And then it was over.

The light came back and the air started to warm up again. There was too much to absorb in such a short space of time. Viewers further south in Quebec – places in the Eastern Townships – were treated to up to four minutes of total eclipse. Up in Montreal, we got barely 45 seconds.

I wish I could rewind the experience and see it again, just so I can fully absorb all the details. But then, isn’t that the beauty of these things? It’s ephemeral, and to be able to relive it on a whim would cheapen it. I understand now why people will travel hundreds of miles, spend thousands of dollars, just to be in the path of totality.

For those privileged to witness it, I suspect the memory will last a lifetime. For me, I know it will. But just in case I do ever forget, I’ve got these words to remind me.

Photos & Video

I was reluctant to share my own photos, because they’re not very good and I was more focused on being present during the event – hence why I pointed the iPhone at the sun and just videoed the eclipse instead of attempting to get the perfect shot. Doing otherwise would have been a waste of those 43 seconds, wouldn’t it?

Eclipse so good

Whilst the brightness of the sun overwhelmes the camera, note the eclipse shaped lens flare in the bottom left

The eclipse continues apace

A halo forms a distance from the sun as the eclipse progresses

Getting close now

Moments before the eclipse, the sky is darkening

The eclipse glasses come off just before the big moment

Make sure you play the video below with the sound up.

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Edited on 20/05/2024 to add a couple of links, one from Wait But Why and another from Smarter Every Day.