Family Stories: Part 1 – The Great American Eclipse of 2017

Family Stories: Part 1

The Great American Eclipse of 2017


The August 21st, 2017 eclipse is the first in almost one hundred years since 1918, to cross our country coast to coast. It will enter the United States through the state of Oregon, crossing over several of the middle states…. just grazing my home state of Georgia in the North Eastern tip before exiting out through South Carolina; Atlanta will only enjoy a 97 percent solar eclipse viewing. This 70-mile-wide strip of totality stretches through 12 states in its path.

FIX Poster of eclipse viewing states

Do You know the difference between lunar and solar….

A lunar eclipse is safe to view with your naked eye because it is the moon which passes directly behind the Earth. This can only occur when the sun, Earth, and moon are directly aligned, or very close, with the Earth in the middle. A lunar eclipse only happens on the night of a full moon… most of us miss the lunar eclipse’s…. we are sleeping!

If you have heard of a “blood moon“…. it is the result of a total lunar eclipse, which occurs when the eclipse has the direct sunlight completely blocked by the shadow of the earth; the only light seen is refracted through our earth’s shadow. The light will look redder, and because of its reddish color showing, it’s often referred to as a blood moon.

A solar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the moon falls on the Earth. This only happens during a new moon, and the moon passes between the sun and Earth. There are two or more solar eclipses every year, but depending on the geometry lines lining up and the moon’s shadow falling to Earth, as to what region will see them. But wherever the solar eclipses are viewed, they can not be seen with the naked eye, and you also will need a “solar filter” to protect your camera’s imaging sensor as well.

progress of eclipse

Everyone is talking about this 2017 eclipse, but it’s not the first solar eclipse that has been seen in my home state of Georgia.

I now live in Connecticut, and I’m getting short-changed with only a 70 percent viewing of the eclipse. I had thought of heading down to my mom’s house in Georgia, stopping first in Rabun County to enjoy the eclipse in totality… lasting a full 2 minutes and 40 seconds. That was my first thought, then my second thought was… do I really want to be there in massive crowds? Well, as I’m writing this blog post in Connecticut, you know I didn’t go. The eclipse will just graze Georgia’s northeast corner, and if it’s cloudy, well it would have been a disappointing trip!

In researching eclipse’s, the 1900 eclipse most interested me after discovering that the most advantageous point of view was in my mother’s hometown of Siloam, Georgia; a small Southern town of only 1,511 people… and soon became widely known and mentioned in many newspapers around the country.

On May 22, 1900, the small Southern town of Siloam, Georgia witnessed an eclipse… before television, before everyone owned a radio in the home, and before the internet was even thought of… Siloam, Georgia was put on the map! What does Siloam mean to me…. it’s my mother’s hometown, although she wasn’t born until 30 years later. Her father would have been 6 years old, and as he never mentioned it, I can only assume he didn’t remember. He was also not yet living in Siloam at that time, he was born in Hancock County, the next county over… but still in the viewing area.

FIX Siloam clipping 1900

Article from The Atlanta Constitution

The original place of viewing was supposed to have been in Union Point, Georgia, but after calculations, it was moved one town over to Siloam. Ironically my hometown is Union Point, only a short 8 miles over from Siloam.

Siloam was swooped down upon weeks before the eclipse by Professor Charles Burkhalter; arriving 5 weeks ahead of the eclipse. He chose this area, local to railroad connections nearby, making for easy transfer of his equipment. For a trip to the South, he carried tons of apparatus and supplies, and as cars were not the choice of travel at that time, he and his equipment traveled by train. In today’s time, he would have likely traveled in a truck with his equipment safely tucked in the back… making it much easier for set up and safely storing his telescopes on-site.

One of his photographs mentioned that he set up next to E. J. Stanley’s house in Siloam; I was unable to discover exactly where this house was located. Another question I pondered was, where did the professor live while spending 5 weeks in Siloam, or even store all his equipment he brought? I’m sure he just didn’t leave those expensive telescopes outside all night unless he camped nearby. There were no hotels, so either he pitched a tent, or possibly one of the locals took pity on him and invited him to stay in their home… and if they did, then they truly reaped the reward of being in the know.

Siloam Eclips 1900

Professor Charles Burkhalter with his massive telescope

Burkhalter arrived in Siloam and soon began setting up his equipment to study the Georgia skies. From an article in the Atlanta Constitution, it was mentioned that Burkhalter brought mammoth double photographic telescopes, and his cameras and telescopes were very popular with the locals, especially the children. The children would come and sit nearby daily, very quietly, watching his every move…. entranced! Often during the day, he’d wave them over to look through the lens of telescopes set up. I’m sure the children talked about what they saw for weeks later. This small humble town of Siloam, Georgia, my mother’s hometown, had never anything of this magnitude ever take place in their small town, and haven’t since!

Eclipe at Peabody

One of the Chabot Observatory – Dolbeer Eclipse Expedition glass negatives at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven, CT.

After discovering that one of the actual glass negatives taken in Siloam was at the Yale Peabody, I contacted them to see if I’d be able to view it in person. Sadly, I was told that it’s stored away… quite disappointing to hear it wasn’t on view in the museum, especially as I actually live in New Haven.

Professor Burkhalter was of the Chabot Observatory Dolbeer Eclipse Expedition of San Francisco

  • The 1970 total eclipse was only seen by the Eastern seaboard on March 7th, just two months before I graduated. I have no memory of it, even though it did come close on the east side through Georgia, exiting through Florida.
  • The 1979 eclipse passed over only through the Northwest United States into Canada. I guess that answers my question of why didn’t I know anything about this eclipse… it wasn’t coming anywhere near where I now lived in Connecticut.
  • The 1979 eclipse occurred on Feb. 26, 1979… I was about two weeks pregnant with my daughter. Did I even know about it? I have no memory of even giving it a second thought at that time in my life.

So What Do We Experience When An Eclipse Happens…

Day turns into night, the air becomes still, birds go silent, looking to roost, and anyone that doesn’t know we are experiencing an eclipse…. will look puzzled! The only time you can look directly at the sun without special eclipse glasses is when the moon completely covers the sun for brief seconds.. which we will not be experiencing in Connecticut!

As the eclipse ends, the animals will think that morning is coming… I wish I lived in the country so I could hear the roosters crow… thinking sunrise is approaching!

Have you heard of “Shadow Bands“? They are snake-like shadows, that often appear to slither across the ground. Scientists believe they are the result of light from the eclipse being focused over and over through the cells of air in the atmosphere. Supposedly they are a rare sight during an eclipse, but you never know… so keep an eye out for “shadow band snakes.” Lay a large white sheet on the ground, or try spotting them by looking at concrete or large sandy white areas. I’ll be looking!

Listen for different sounds…. or no sounds!

This is a Once in a Lifetime Event to experience!

During those “two minutes plus” of almost total darkness for me in Connecticut, the “hidden solar corona” just might be visible for us to see. The corona is the usually hidden outer bright atmosphere of the sun; stars and even planets might also become visible as well. I’m also hoping to see the sun’s “Bling” – known as the “ring.”

I don’t think we will see “Bailey’s Beads” either here in CT., but I’ll still be looking… just in case we see a partial one. The beads are bright pearls of sunlight that shine through the outside valleys and mountains of the “somewhat” smooth moon edge… which we don’t normally see. You can only experience the sight of them as the moon passes over the sun. The beads will often look reddish in color, as they expose the upper atmosphere of the bright sun.

If it turns out to be an overcast and rainy day for our eclipse… we could be treated to “Corona Rainbows“… imagine a corona full of tiny rainbows surrounding the sun! That will only happen if we have rain, leaving water vapor in the air when the sun goes into eclipse mode… then the rainbows would surround it.

Another awesome event to happen during the totality of an eclipse is that you enjoy a 360-degree sunset. But as we aren’t in totality in CT., I’m not holding any faith of seeing anything such as this; and if it happened it would be because the sun is shining on the outside of totality. Maybe my family in Georgia can experience this.


The future total solar eclipses over North America

The next North American eclipse won’t be visible until April 8, 2024…. in just 7 years. If I’m able to view it, my grandchildren will be old enough to now understand about the eclipse and it will be the first one that they can experience. My oldest granddaughter Ella will be 14, McKinley will be 12, Ana and Nina will be 11 and Grace will be 10. And if I am here, I will ensure that they watch and hopefully, remember their first eclipse.

The 2017 eclipse is expected to be the most observed and documented eclipse in our history… I’m sure having the internet at our fingertips doesn’t hurt either! Towns and cities in the totality line of viewing have events planned over the weekend and all day on Monday the 21st. I wonder how many people are planning to call out sick? Many schools are even prolonging the school day so the children aren’t leaving during the eclipse.

While Connecticut won’t experience the total effect, it’s still worth watching and maybe in 2024, I might be treated to a totality viewing. There are events planned locally here, such as observatories open for viewing, astronomy club events and several places have planned parties, and now since most places have sold out of “eclipse” glasses…. people are waking up that an eclipse is actually coming!

How to Watch!

I have several thoughts on how to watch and while it’s only going to be a short couple of minutes, I’ll be scrambling to view in several ways. Like everyone else, I bought “Eclipse glasses” and searched the internet on “how” to watch. I also found printables of the entire United States and individual states that will allow me to make a pinhole viewer of any state, and I will attempt to project the suns light onto a whiteboard; if I watch by projection, I can view with my naked eye. Only turning into the eclipse, will I need to wear glasses.

Printables of all the states can be found on the Nasa website by typing… then scroll down on the page to “what’s new” and you’ll find links to state printables. Choose the 2D ones if you’re going to print and cut-out of card stock. Domino’s Pizza also has posted directions on making a viewer, using their pizza boxes… everyone is cashing in! Let me hear back if you make a viewer and how yours worked! My follow-up post will have my photos, results, and thoughts!

viewing with telescope or binoculars

Where will I be viewing? I’m thinking of the beach area as there will be no trees around to cloud my view, but I may just attempt my photos right in my driveway! Will I be taking photos? Most likely not, as I’d need a special lens to protect the inner workings of my camera. That’s very frustrating, as I’d like to have my own photos, not relying on others, but this time… I have no choice. If I make a projection viewer, I can safely take photos of the pin-hole views…. if I can make it work!

All I know is… I’ll be watching!

Stay tuned for Part 2… of what happened, what I saw, or not saw, and what photographs I managed to take during the eclipse. No matter what happens, I can say “I lived through The Great American Eclipse of 2017″.  It will make for an interesting family history story for the budding genealogist in the family to read one day!

Click link to read Part 2 of The Great American Eclipse of 2017


Want to read more, then click… Family Stories

© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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4 Responses to Family Stories: Part 1 – The Great American Eclipse of 2017

  1. lawesner says:

    Thanks for all the information! We are having an eclipse watch gathering at our house here in Central Ohio, and we’ll now be watching for those shadow band snakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lyn Smith says:

    Doesn’t look like we will see any of it, as we are a good 170 miles Southeast of Rabun County, Georgia, which is where the total Eclipse should be visible.
    Wonder if our cousins will be making the trip from the Atlanta area to Rabun County? Might have to check with Marcia on that.
    Interesting story about the last total Eclipse. Siloam, Georgia. Mother was born there in 1931 but I don’t recall ever hearing her mention this event. Surely this is something that would have been covered in school but then, I don’t recall hearing of it when I was in school. Papa McKinley was born nine years after this event. He was born in Powellton and Mama McKinley (Marchman) was born in Greene County ten years after this event.
    Also, interesting is where did Professor Burkhalter and his crew stay during their time in Siloam. Is it possible they set up tents in the yard of E.J. Stanley? Seems to me that would have been the perfect way for them to set up their equipment and keep an eye on it, while being at hand for the Eclipse. Just a thought on my part.
    I found another picture of four black children, with the house of E.J. Stanley in the background but, like you, still having difficulty locating the exact location. The picture I found stated the house was still standing but did not stipulate when the picture was given to the Archives. I did find a picture of the Eclipse path in 1900, I’ll send that to you via Facebook.
    Yes, I’ve heard of Blood Moons, they are mentioned in scripture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would have been very interesting if any of our ancestors had written or passed down info on it. I have the Eclipse pic, but forgot to post it. Will add later. I had found out the actual glass negative is at Yales Peabody Museum right here in New Haven. I’ll post the other info later.


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