Local Astronomer Kevin Gassen traveled to Casper, WY to view the Eclipse
The Great American Eclipse
The journey truly begins when I was a kid, but I won’t bore you with that. I won’t bore ME with that! Needless to say, viewing a total solar eclipse was a lifelong dream of mine, and this week, that dream came true. Along with a very good friend, Mr. Derek Kuhl, I travelled to Casper, Wyoming to view the event of a lifetime. After months of planning, equipment gathering, testing, and even building cabinets to convert a cargo van into an RV, we hit the road on Friday, August 18 and drove straight through to Cheyenne, WY.
We spent the night at Curt Gowdy State Park; in itself is an awesome place! On Saturday morning, we had to make a critical decision. The cloud cover forecast for Casper had not been looking very good and we had a contingency plan to go on to Oregon. The reports were a little better that morning and so we decided to proceed to Casper and avoid another 15-hour drive to Oregon. Thank Goodness!
Once in Casper, we staked a claim on a nice flat spot on some wideopen BLM land and set up camp. We got our scopes and gear all set up and had a really good time with some nighttime viewing. The skies were so much darker than home, it was almost like looking at a brand new sky.
Sunday was uneventful; we checked the equipment again and fine-tuned our daytime alignment procedures. That evening, a little windstorm blew in and threatened to blow us away, but we held our ground with minimal damage. By this time there were several other campers near us and we had a couple of visits from some BLM folks, a fire district official and a Sheriff’s deputy.
I have to say, these folks were some of the friendliest people. They were very courteous and just wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable.
Monday morning; The BIG EVENT! Woke up early and double and triple checked EVERYTHING. We had a few scattered clouds, but nothing to cause any real trouble.
First contact came, and everything was running smooth. About 10 minutes before totality, some thicker clouds moved in and really had us on our toes adjusting exposures on the fly to still capture good images. TOTALITY! I must say that aside from my wedding day and the births of my children, this was the most awe inspiring, emotional experience of my life! The temperature had dropped considerably during the final minutes of the partial phase, but you really felt it when the sun “went out”. The landscape dimmed to a near twilight state and it was quite eerie.
The view was stunning to say the least. There were a few bright stars visible in the sky; the sun’s corona was a beautiful white feathery light. The moon appeared a dark charcoal grey. The clouds did take a little away from the sharpness that otherwise would have been seen, but not enough to lessen the experience. Cameras and scopes nearly forgotten, we gazed in wonder at one of nature’s rarest and most beautiful displays.
After what seemed only a few seconds, we grabbed binoculars and took a closer peek. Just at the moment I looked into the eyepieces, the sun began to emerge and we saw the most beautiful “Bailey’s Beads”. These are the appearance of the sun peeking through mountain peaks on the Moon’s limb. These quickly merged into a brief but awesome “diamond ring” effect and just like that, it was over. We finished our camera routines through the post totality phase until last contact, but we were so overcome with what we had just seen, that I’m not sure how that part of it turned out. Shortly afterward, we packed up and headed for home.
As I write this, we are in the van between Casper and Cheyenne in a fair amount of traffic, but that’s okay. I know that most of these people were able to share a truly inspiring event, and that makes the wait a nonfactor. I hope everyone at home was able to go out and view the eclipse as well. Even though you may not have experienced totality, it truly is a remarkable event and one well worth the effort.