OAK CITY, Utah — On Oct. 14, in the small town of Oak City, Utah, I — along with my grandson, Brandon, and son-in-law, John — headed out of town to find a place to set up for our families to watch the annular eclipse. We parked on Anderson Lane where the deer travel from the corn fields to the rolling hills each morning, and we were early enough to catch some deer making their way back to the hills.
As I set up my equipment to shoot the eclipse, I realized I did not have a filter for my lens to get some good pictures. I had my eclipse glasses to watch the sun as the moon moved across it, and I felt I could work something out. We tried taping piece of the glasses over my cell phone but that did not work very well; then Brandon suggested running back home and getting his welding helmet to see if that would work. It worked okay.
When the eclipse finally started causing a weird darkness and a cooling of an already-cool morning, we noticed a herd of deer coming out of the hills headed for the corn fields. By then the rest of the family had showed up, causing the deer to abandon the trail they were on and move around us. A flock of Western meadowlarks stopped their singing and moved out of the fields and into the scattered trees for a nap. A small flock of Scrub jays stopped their foraging and moved into the brush to roost.
An annular eclipse is caused when the moon is at or near its furthest point from the earth causing a “ring of fire” around the moon because it does not completely block out the sun. In the 2017 “total eclipse” in southeastern Idaho, the sun was completely blocked out, causing the “diamond ring” effect as the moon gently moved off the total eclipse.
During the annular eclipse, as the ring of fire disappeared, it started getting lighter and warmer and the deer moved back into the mahogany covered hills. The meadowlarks started feeding and singing in the fields while the jays followed the deer to feed; they do not sing much.
With the sun half uncovered the females of our family headed back to Oak City to prepare for a bridal shower for my granddaughter while us boys enjoyed the second sunrise of the day.
Annular eclipses are not rare — they happen every year or two — but they draw a lot of people because of their beauty. The night before the eclipse traffic was horrendous traveling south through Salt Lake City and Provo. On the way down on Friday night, we heard that all the gas stations in Delta, the nearest town to Oak City, had run out of gas.
People trying to get to witness the perfect ring of fire west of Delta found the traffic on the two-lane highway almost at a dead stop, taking three hours to go 30 miles. When we left our motel Saturday morning, we stopped at a convenience store to get some drinks for the day. There were 27 people lined up for the restroom and 21 lined up for snacks and drinks.
It is never safe to view an annular eclipse without solar glasses as the sun’s rays are unusually strong during its development. It can damage the eye and can even blind you. During a total eclipse, if you are in the “totality zone,” when the sun is totally covered, you can remove your solar glasses and view it. In 2017, I was able to capture the diamond ring effect by shooting it without a protective solar lens.
Next year on April 8, there will be a total eclipse with the totality zone going from Texas to Maine. Southeastern Idaho will only have about half of the sun covered. To view it and photograph it you will need protection for your eyes or camera.
As important as the sun is to us, any oddity with it brings a lot of interest and joy to us. Since the eclipse, each day I have looked at the sun with my solar glasses and I have decided not to take it for granted anymore. It adds just bit more gratitude that I have for the wonderful natural occurrences that we enjoy.
Be careful out there in the wilds and be a little kinder to those people you run into. Have a great week and enjoy the sun.
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