The second greatest show on earth

There is this to be said for seeing your second total eclipse of the sun: if the first one went well, you can be more relaxed about what you get to see. In 2017, sitting in Centennial Park in Nashville, we saw everything. So in Dallas in 2024, I could tell myself, “It will be interesting even if we can’t see the sun.”

As it happened, we had cloud with lots of breaks. The cloud obscured such phenomena as Bailey’s Beads and the diamond ring – but the play of light on the broken clouds as the sun popped back out was amazing all by itself. The corona-surrounded sun playing peek-a-boo with us was stunningly beautiful. And all too soon it was over. It seemed shorter than 2017, even though totality was nearly twice as long – 3:52 compared to about two minutes.

One thing definitely missing from Nashville was a phenomenon that’s less often discussed: the 360-degree sunset all around the horizon. Sitting in Dallas surrounded by buildings, the horizon was not visible as it was in that Nashville park.

On Sunday, April 7, it seemed like half the country was moving into position for today in a process that involved placing a bet on the local weather. I had friends scattered in Vermont, Montreal, and several locations in upstate New York. Our intermittent cloud compared favorably with at least one of the New York locations. Daytime darkness and watching and listening to animals’ reactions is still interesting…but it remains frustrating to know that the Big Show is going on without you.

The hundreds of photos on show hide the real thrill of seeing totality: the sense of connection to humanity past, present, and future, and across the animal kingdom. The strangers around you become part of your life, however briefly. The inexorable movements of earth, sun, and moon put us all in our place.