Solar eclipse disrupted by clouds in the Marshall area

For the past few weeks I’d had high hopes for Monday’s solar eclipse, hopes that I could sit outside and watch things darken in the middle of the day.

The forecasts over the weekend led me to be doubtful. Monday was supposed to be mostly cloudy, with a good chance for rain later in the afternoon.

The peak of our partial eclipse was set for 2 p.m. on Monday. In the late morning the sun was peeking through from time to time. I held out hope.

During lunch I noticed clouds thickening. It didn’t qualify as the start of an eclipse. It was just clouds, the kind that appear before a rain shower or thunderstorm.

As it got closer to 2 p.m. I knew there was no point in sitting outside. The sky got just slightly darker, so slight that everything still looked normal.

Someone who lives in a vacuum and somehow hadn’t heard that we were scheduled for a solar eclipse would not have even seen any difference.

I was disappointed. I felt like I’d gone to the Church of St. Happening. I felt like we’d missed out on a special occasion.

I remember the 1979 eclipse. I was a student at Holy Redeemer School. We were given cards with cut out circles that we could hold up to the window and see light from outside. We used the card to watch the light disappear.

Then we went to the window and looked at the ground. It was mostly dark outside. I was looking forward to having the same kind of eclipse experience 45 years later.

Although we missed the event, I enjoyed all of the preparations. I attended a Southwest Minnesota State University planetarium show about eclipses, and learned plenty of new things about them.

On Monday morning I watched the coverage on the Weather Channel of the upcoming eclipse. I especially enjoyed reports on the couples who planned to get married in the darkness.

I have a friend (a former reporter at the Independent) who got married this year on Leap Day. That’s an unusual idea, an anniversary only once every four years. The eclipse was probably the only opportunity to top it.

With all the negativity in the news in 2024, the eclipse was a real bright spot. It’s simply a natural wonder. We can all agree that it’s a beautiful, historic occasion, one that we can admire together.

I used to love astronomy as a kid. It seemed like it could transcend worldly concerns. The moon trips and Skylab rose above the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s; the Vietnam War, Watergate, racial unrest and counterculture.

We reasoned that if we could put men in space we were still doing something right. We still had reasons to be proud of America, to feel like we’d stay on the right track.

Hopefully the 2024 eclipse results in memories that do the same thing. The world is a fascinating place. It’s full of good things that usually don’t make headlines.

It will be more than 20 years before the lower 48 states see another eclipse. I’ll probably live to see it. I’ll be almost like Mark Twain, who was born when Halley’s Comet appeared and died the next time it came back.

It’s something to which I can look forward. Maybe it will result in a sunny day, one that will allow me to once again see the effects I saw when I was 12 years old.

I’m glad that millions of other people in the path of the full or partial eclipse in 2024 got to see it. The day wasn’t a total loss. It’s just the luck of the draw. Maybe next time we’ll be lucky.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent


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