Sunday, August 20, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse— At Least Once In A Lifetime

July 11, 1991, Honolulu, was my once in a lifetime (thus far) experience with a total solar eclipse. It began mid-morning and aunts and uncles and family friends gathered at my parents home in Manoa Valley. In the gradual darkening of the totality, I walked down the steep steps to the back yard to watch, using the proper protective lenses (which must have been sufficiently protective since I can still see).

It never got completely as dark as night but the July mid-morning, Hawaii temperature noticeably dropped and a stillness enveloped the back yard. I quickly hurried up the steps to report to those gathered in the living room only to find them comfortably watching the eclipse on television. I could at best describe poorly what could be seen clearly, without protective lenses, on the bright screen.

There is no experience quite like watching a total solar eclipse outside in real time. Use a little imagination and try to see it through the eyes of a pre-scientific person, try to make up a story that makes sense of what you see. What filled me with amazement and still does every time there is a solar or lunar eclipse is how we have learned the physics and mathematics to predict with great accuracy the places and times these wonderful celestial events occur. We’ve come a long way from making up stories. Think about that relationship between what’s inside our heads and what’s outside in the natural world— pretty profound.

This morning I’ll be watching an 88% totality with my grandson and joking that he can use the protective lenses while I watch the eclipse on television. But I’ll be outside with him as will millions of others coming together for a few hours, sharing the experience of a lifetime.

So, that’s my story. Send me yours to share.

--Mike Sato


  1. Due to a quirk of scheduling, some of us volunteers will be out on the beach along Fidalgo Bay doing a surf smelt spawning survey between about 9:30 and 11:00. It will be interesting to see the bird behavior. I shall report back any odd experiences!

    1. And let us know whether the surf smelt behave differently...

  2. Well it was not particularly overwhelming! One guy brought a big box with a pin hole and we all had fun putting it over our heads to see the covering moon in the box on a white sheet of paper opposite the pin hole!

    There were many terns and crows and an eagle active before the darkening began. At the peak they all had disappeared except for the crows and they wandered the beach looking confused.

    As usual this time of year our group found lots of evidence of surf smelt spawning and so that is good. The smelt themselves are out there in schools somewhere, waiting for another evening high tide to come in and spawn some more. I don't think anyone knows what they think of the eclipse!


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