May Sunday 20- I arrived at the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor’s Center in Twentynine Palms a little after 3PM. There were around twenty folks and a few Park Rangers setting up and preparing for the eclipse that wouldn’t begin until 5:24PM.
One Ranger was using a paper hole-punch to make viewing devices out of thin cardboard stock. The lady Ranger told me she had 200 special eyeglasses for viewing the eclipse and she was hoping it would be enough for those who came to the event.
Two Astronomy volunteers were in the last stages of setting up their telescopes and people began to lineup to observe the Sun and its sunspots; the eclipse was still hours away.
There were folks from all over the world here to see the annular eclipse. I got into a conversation with a visitor from New York State. He came all the way out here to take pictures of the eclipse with his Cannon 7D and this humongous zoom lens stuck to the front.
Around 4:15PM folks started showing up. The Rangers were showing the kids how to work the pinhole cardboard device, which we discovered later, had too big of hole from the punch and had to be redone by poking a new hole with a nail the Rangers supplied.
By 4:45PM there were, by my best guess, upwards towards 400 parents with their kids standing in line to get those 200 special viewing glasses. Clearly there wouldn’t be enough. The Ranger asked that only one pair be handed out per family. I decided to wait so those who never seen an eclipse before would get a pair.
One Astronomer volunteers had connected his scope to a projector for viewing the eclipse on a large movie screen. And at 5:24PM the eclipse was beginning and by 5:30 could clearly be seen on that screen. There upon the table by the projector were a few pairs of glasses left and I made off with one. I held it up to the lens of my camera and started taking pictures of the eclipse. I don’t know if I was the first to try this, I didn’t see anyone doing this before I tried it, but now everyone was taking pictures through them using their cell phones and whatever that could go click.
I went here and there taking pictures and videos, listening to folks laughing, oohing and aahing, wearing those funny looking glasses that made it look like they were watching a 3D movie.
It was mighty fine to see all these folks interested in astronomy. I listened in on one father explaining to his young son about the eclipse; this touched my heart.
At 6:38PM came totality or as close to it as we were going to get from where we were and it being an annular eclipse. You could really notice the dimming of the Sun. I lent my glasses to a young couple from Belgian. They were traveling America and were really excited to be here in our beautiful desert viewing this marvelous feat of nature. I took some fair pictures, but none as good as the ones I took as the Sun and Moon started to set together into the western horizon. I didn’t even need those glasses covering my lens. I just clicked away until the last little speck of light vanished; ending what was a wonderful day.
The Park had a night program that started at 8PM. The Rangers setup two telescopes to view the night sky. Now I was in my element!