Circular shadow on the sidewalk, with lots of bright crescents inside, all facing the same direction.

For a lot of reasons, we didn’t arrange another road trip to see today’s total eclipse like we did in 2017 (which was amazing, by the way!). It was only partial out here in California, and not even with as high a magnitude as the one last October.

But we had clear skies, so we broke out the eclipse glasses from 2017 again. After testing them first by looking directly as a bright indoor lamp to make sure there were no scratches. And I’d heard that colanders make interesting patterns (each hole works as a pinhole camera) much like overlapping leaves do, so I brought that out — as you can see, it worked quite well!

I do kind of regret not being able to get out to see this one as total. Partial eclipses can be really cool, especially if you have multiple ways to observe them, but XKCD has a point. There really isn’t any comparison to experiencing totality, and it doesn’t come through very well in photos.

I bet northern Spain is already booked for 2026.

It is interesting to think that solar eclipses happen every year — usually twice! — but they’re not always total, and they’re only visible from a small part of the planet at a time. And sometimes that’s a slice of, say, Antarctica or Siberia or out in the middle of the ocean. Not rare for the planet, but definitely rare for any given location.

On one hand, it’s no wonder people used to see them as omens. With travel and communication slow (and in many cases impossible) in the ancient world, if you’re only going on what’s been seen in your area, it seems super-rare and unpredictable. On the other hand, cultures with sophisticated enough astronomy like the ancient Babylonians were able to calculate the eclipse cycle thousands of years ago!

One bit of funny timing: We’ve been catching up on the last season of The Magicians. Today we got up to an episode that…well, let’s just say the moon figures very prominently in it!

It was hazy, and the weather forecast was partly cloudy, but the sun stayed visible and the eclipse glasses (used here for the photo) haven’t cracked!

Yellow-orange circle on a black background, with a circular chunk apparently cut out of it.

We didn’t do anything complicated this time: just took the glasses with us as we went about our morning, looking through the glasses every 15-20 minutes to see how much was covered until it reached its maximum coverage of 78% of the sun’s apparent diameter.

And at projections. Leaves are nature’s original pinhole camera!

A bunch of overlapping bright crescents of light on the ground.

A road trip like 2017 to see the full annular eclipse would have been cool, but it just wasn’t something we could do this time around, and with clear visibility, there wasn’t any need to seek higher ground like 2012.

Here’s peak coverage for this area, again viewed through eclipse glasses.

Yellow-orange crescent on a black background.

Found the eclipse glasses from 2017. Checked for scratches. Looks like they’ll be usable for Saturday’s solar eclipse!

It’ll be partial here in California, covering ~78% of the sun’s diameter. The annular shadow passes from Oregon diagonally to Texas, crosses the gulf to Yucatan, then follows Central America and crosses Brazil from west to east at its widest part.

Time and date calculator for when it starts, peaks and ends in your area, and how much of the sun will be covered.

I’ve always wanted to see a total solar eclipse, but until now I never had the opportunity. I’ve caught a number of partial solar eclipses over the years, and quite a few lunar eclipses. This year’s “Great American Eclipse” was perfect: it passed close to Portland, where we have family, and we could visit friends on the way up.

By the time I reserved our hotel there was nothing left inside the path of totality, but we could still get an expensive room in Portland. I reserved that immediately for the nights before and after, then a motel for a few nights before so we would have time to visit, then we planned out the trip up and back.

Driving Into the Path

The morning of August 21, we got up at 5:30 to drive south into the path of the eclipse. We didn’t actually make it out the door until at least 6:30, and the parking attendant had lost our key (fortunately we had two, and they did eventually find it that afternoon), and then we got lost trying to find an ATM in case we had to pay a ton to park in someone’s field (one way streets and bridges and driving into the early morning sun), but we got on the road toward Salem by around 7:15/7:30, with our eclipse glasses, water, snacks/emergency food, and a very sleepy 6½ year old.

The threatened traffic jam carpocalypse didn’t materialize. There were slowdowns, sure, but nothing we hadn’t experienced on the way out of LA. Our nav system (which J. calls the “map lady”) sent us onto a side road at one point, and we drove through the countryside a while before getting back onto the interstate.

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I literally found out yesterday about today’s partial solar eclipse. Unlike the last one visible from Southern California in 2012, which was conveniently on a weekend, this ended up being right in the middle of the work day. Add in a lot of other stuff going on, and I didn’t have time to do anything like go out to a prime viewing spot or make a giant pinhole camera.

My original plan was to take a late lunch, see what I could see, then try to head back outside at the point of greatest eclipse. I sat on a bench in the courtyard, surrounded by trees, checking a tiny pinhole camera I’d made from a tea box at the last minute and also looking for a good spot with images projected through the tree leaves.

After about half an hour I started to wonder why I wasn’t seeing any signs of eclipse, and looked up the times again. Apparently the calculator I used didn’t account for daylight saving time. The good thing about that: I was early, not late. The bad thing: Greatest eclipse was actually going to be during/shortly after a production switchover at work that I needed to be on hand for.

So I headed back outside around 2:50 to look at the clusters of eclipsed suns projected by the leaves in the shady courtyard.

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