2017 Total Eclipse Trip

Page 2: Preparing for and watching the 2017 Solar Eclipse in Kearney, Nebraska

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TOtal Eclipse countdown clock
I was up early on Monday morning, prepared to drive another couple of hours to find a more clear location to view the Great American Eclipse, but the forecasts showed Kearney, Nebraska to be as good as anywhere within that distance, with a prediction of 42% cloud cover at the time of totality.

While Linda slept, I slipped out to photograph a bit of Kearney, including the University of Nebraska at Kearney Cope football stadium which would host one of the largest eclipse viewing parties. The neatest thing I found was near the stadium, the Kearney Hydro Plant and dam. The area below the dam has been turned into Spillway Park and there are plans to turn the plant into a museum.

Kearney Hydro Plant and Dam - Kearney, Nebraska
Kearney Hydro Plant and Dam
Kearney had many eclipse watch parties and we were going to attend the one in Cope Stadium, but as we left our motel, we saw people setting up to watch the eclipse from the parking lot behind the hotel and decided that it made more sense. We had a small tree for shade, could use our own chairs and have our cooler. 

The eclipse began at 11:33AM and we slowly noticed the covering up of the sun, viewing it though eclipse glasses. Shortly thereafter we saw that the sun filtering though the leaves of the tree above us was forming crescent bright spots in the shadows on the ground.

As the eclipse progressed, there was a definite change in the quality of light and the day started getting a little cooler, instead of hotter.

Finally, only a tiny edge of the sun was still visible and the partial eclipse quickly passed through the "Diamond ring" effect to total eclipse at 12:57PM. There were perhaps 50 people scattered around the area where we were and over half of them cheered.

With the corona of the sun flaring out around the moon, the moon looked even darker, like a hole in the sky. I took three quick photos with the camera I was holding, but it was not focusing properly and I switched to a second camera which was already mounted on a tripod. Not wanting to take the time for more careful photos, I picked the camera & tripod up and took 14 photos in about 20 seconds, than sat the camera back down to just watch the sun.

About that time, I heard someone shout "look at the horizon!" The horizon was outside the totality and was the color of dawn or dusk in all directions. I took a quick 15 second, 360 degree video of that effect, noticing that nearby street lights had come on. I returned to looking at the sun for the few remaining seconds, calling out, "put your glasses back on" when the diamond ring started to appear again.

We watched the now partial eclipse through the glasses for a couple of more minutes as the thin spot of sun expanded on the opposite side. The area around us quickly became brighter as our eyes had adjusted to the darkness.

With the remainder of the eclipse being a mirror image of the first half, we soon packed up and were on I-80, heading east ahead of the traffic from Kearney and points west. Traffic was light until we reached the Hastings/Grand Island exit. From there on, there was heavy traffic, several times dropping to a complete standstill. People could still be seen watching the last of the partial eclipse at rest areas and other spots along the way.

We left I-80 at Lincoln, just as it was starting to really back up and had good travel the rest of the way. 

Waiting for the total solar eclipse of 2017
Linda taking a break after we set up to enjoy the eclipse.

Eclipse crescents on the ground beneat a tree
The leaves of the tree above us acted as a natural pinhole camera, projecting suns on the ground.

Watching the 2017 Solar Eclipse
This couple drove to Kearney from Los Angeles to watch the eclipse.

The first photos taken with my Canon PowerShot SX60 were out of focus and I didn't want to take the time to try to do better.

Total eclipse photographed with a Nikon D5200
Taken with my Nikon D5200

Total Solar Eclipse and the planet Mercury
The white spot at the left is the planet Mercury.  (Prints of this photo)

Dawn during the total eclipse
"Dawn" on the horizon during totality

I-80 traffic following the eclipse
Traffic headed east on I-80 after the Total Solar Eclipse

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