The Great American Eclipse

Tuesday 5th December, 2017


We were very happy to welcome back as our speaker Mike Frost who, as an ardent solar eclipse chaser, had come to tell us all about his experience of his trip to view the most recent total solar eclipse. The title of his talk was "The Great American Eclipse" as he had to travel to the USA to witness it on August 21st 2017.

Mike began by saying that this would be his eleventh trip to see a total solar eclipse. He usually joined organised tours but this time, as his work took him frequently to the USA, he decided he had enough experience to travel independently. He had researched the best place to view the eclipse, as the track of totality swept right across the continent from the west to east coasts and he finally settled on somewhere in the state of Oregon. He had come to this conclusion as weather in the east tended to be cloudier at this time of year and the west coast could suffer from sea fog obscuring the view.

Mike flew to Vancouver, then on to Seattle before driving to Tacoma for an overnight stay. He then drove to his base, in a small city in Oregon called Pendleton. As a bonus, on his way there, he said he had been able to do some sightseeing including a stunning view of Mount Rainier.

On the day of the eclipse Mike got up early at 3:30am, and headed southeast on Interstate 84 towards a small city on the border of Oregon and Idaho called Huntington. On the way he had pulled into a service station for a rest break and it boded well for the eclipse as Jupiter and Venus were shining brightly in the sky. He had found out from an email discussion group on Yahoo related to the eclipse that there was a good viewing point at the junction of the Burnt River and Snake River. The Snake River is a large river and Mike hoped that if any clouds did appear the cool water would clear a gap in the clouds above the river and also the terrain is relatively flat allowing for good views of any phenomena before or after the event. As it turned out the sky was clear for the actual event just before 10:25 (Pacific Daylight Time) and Mike was joined by about 70 others to enjoy the spectacle. For 2 minutes and 9 seconds the Sun was covered by the Moon and Mike was able to see the wispy outer atmosphere of the Sun called the corona.

Mike ended his talk by showing us a souvenir of his visit — a unique heat sensitive stamp that was sold especially to commemorate the event. When cold the stamp shows a black disc surrounded by wispy white lines representing the eclipsed Sun and its outer atmosphere. When you hold a finger to the stamp the central dark disc transforms into the image of a Full Moon.


This article was written for the club news column of the Stratford Herald. The actual lecture explained the subject at a deeper level.