An expert who has seen 30 solar eclipses made my first experience with one breathtaking

An expert who has seen 30 solar eclipses made my first experience with one breathtaking
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The solar eclipse viewed from Indiana in 2024
The April 8 total solar eclipse as seen from Bloomington, Indiana.

  • My first solar eclipse experience was breathtaking thanks to advice from a seasoned eclipse-chaser.
  • Fred Espanak has been to 30 total solar eclipses, and he told me how to make the most of my first one.
  • Getting into the path of totality was worth the effort for me and others.

On Monday, I witnessed my first-ever total solar eclipse. And it was breathtaking.

I traveled to Burlington, Vermont to watch the moon’s shadow blot out the sun over Lake Champlain. The weather was warm and clear, traffic was light on my journey into Burlington, and the whole city came together — plus thousands of visitors — to watch the eclipse unfold.

A huge crowd of eclipse watchers sits on the boardwalk in front of Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT.
Eclipse watchers in Burlington, VT flocked to the waterfront of Lake Champlain to watch the event unfold over the Adirondack Mountains.

But what really helped make my first eclipse experience great was the advice I received from Fred Espanak, a former NASA astrophysicist and avid eclipse chaser.

Espanak has been to 30 total solar eclipses and has seen one on all seven continents — including Antarctica. He’s seen so many that he earned the nickname “Mr. Eclipse,” and it goes without saying that he has his eclipse-watching strategy down to a science.

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In the weeks leading up to April 8, I reached out to him for advice on how to make the most of my first total solar eclipse experience. Here are the tips he gave me that turned out to be the most helpful.

Get to the path of totality

Millions of Americans traveled to the path of totality for Monday’s eclipse, and Espanak would say they had the right idea.

“While a partial eclipse might be interesting, a total eclipse is incredible,” he said.

Total solar eclipse 2024.
My photo of totality, which shows the sun’s corona glowing white around the perimeter of the moon’s shadow.

When I spoke with Espanak in February, I called from my apartment in Brooklyn, New York. New York City wasn’t going to be in the path of totality, but would see the moon cover about 90% of the sun during the eclipse. Espanak encouraged me to leave the city and travel to the path of totality for the event.

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So, I decided to take the train to Burlington, Vermont, to watch the event. And it was totally worth the seven-hour trip. In Burlington, I was able to see three minutes and 15 seconds of totality, which was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Keep an eye on the weather

The weather can make or break your total solar eclipse experience. Cloudy skies or precipitation in the forecast can make it difficult to see and photograph the event — some eclipse chasers in New York learned this the hard way.

That’s why it’s important to keep your eye on the weather forecast during the week leading up to the eclipse, Espenak said, and be prepared to change your viewing location to find clearer skies if necessary.

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“You have to be willing to change your plans a day or two before the eclipse based on the weather forecasts,” Espenak said.

A grassy field with a crowd of people lounging under a blue sky.
Waterfront Park in Burlington, VT just a few hours before the eclipse began. A few clouds rolled in later on, but they didn’t obstruct my view of the eclipse.

Vermont’s weather in April can be unpredictable — ranging from snow, rain, and high winds to sun and blue skies. I checked the weather every day in the week leading up to the eclipse. Luckily for me, Burlington was sunny and warm for eclipse day, so I didn’t have to make any last-minute changes to my viewing plan.

Espanak’s tips made my first total eclipse experience unforgettable. And now, I’ll be prepared for the next one in the US in 2044.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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