Category Archives: Main Blog

STEM Resource Finder: Part III – How to Use Models in Your Classroom

There are over 100 standalone models available in our STEM Resource Finder, which you can assign to your students.

Consider the following ways you might use them in your classroom.

  • Project a model for the whole class to see. Explore data and phenomena. For instance:
    • Look at the patterns of earthquakes and volcano locations in the Seismic Explorer model. Why do you think earthquakes happen where they do?
    • Look at the difference in heat transfer between well and poorly insulated buildings in the Well and Poorly Insulated Houses model. What makes for a well-insulated building?
    • Have the students make predictions of what will happen when a variable changes.
      • What will happen to the level of water vapor in the atmosphere when you reduce the level of human emissions in the Climate Change model?
      • How do you expect tillage to affect the amount of topsoil in the Land Management model?
      • How does molecular mass affect diffusion speed? Use the Diffusion and Molecular Mass model to find out!

Screenshot of Diffusion and Molecular Mass model.

  • Challenge your students to create an outcome in small group work. For example, have your students simulate a balloon’s flight from ground level to high altitude with our What is Pressure? model. Where should they remove atoms to simulate the balloon’s ascent?
  • Embed the link to a model (use the model’s Share feature!) in a shared Google Doc along with a question or two for review, enrichment, or homework.

These are just a few examples of what you can do with our scores of models. How do you use our models in your classroom? Share your ideas here. And let us know if you have any questions.

STEM Resource Finder: Part II – Find and Assign Resources for Your Students

Once you’ve registered as a teacher and created a class, you can assign resources to your students.

Go to the STEM Resource Finder, and use the filters to search by subject area, resource type, or grade level. You can also search our Collections for sets of resources created by our various research projects. Each collection has specific learning goals within the context of a larger subject area.

Tip: If you find a resource that you’re interested in, but aren’t yet ready to fully explore it on your own or assign it to your class, click the star icon on the resource card to save it to your Favorites. You can go back to your Favorites on your home page at any time.

Assign Resources to Your Class

When you find a sequence, activity, or model to assign to your class, click the resource card to open the resource detail view, then click the Assign to a Class button. If you’ve created more than one class, select the class(es) to which you want to assign the resource.

Note: You must be logged in as a teacher to see the Assign to a Class button.

Student Registration

Students can register themselves or you can manually register them. Follow these instructions to have students register themselves.

Note: If you or your students have a Google or Schoology account, you can register or sign in with either of those accounts.

  1. Ask students to Register at the STEM Resource Finder.
  2. Have students complete the form and choose a password. On the next screen, they should select the Student radio button.
  3. Provide students with the unique Class Word for your class.
  4. Have them click Sign Up!
  5. The STEM Resource Finder will assign the student a username consisting of their first initial followed by their last name. (Note: A number is appended if there is more than one student with the same first initial and last name in the system.)
  6. Students will receive a success message once they have completed all of the required fields. Have your students write down their username and password. If they forget their username and/or password, you can use the class roster to see their username and reset their password, if necessary.
  7. Students can then log in to the STEM Resource Finder by clicking Log In! in the pop-up window or using the Log In button on the STEM Resource Finder homepage.

Note: You and your students can use our free resources from the STEM Resource Finder without logging in. Find a resource you love and share the preview URL!

Additional information is available in the User Guide.

Questions? Let us know.

Part II: Students Learn about Water . . .  and Take Action

In Part I you learned what a watershed is and its role in protecting a community from flooding. Carolyn Staudt has led NSF-funded projects that teach middle and high school students how to gather data about their water resources. She feels strongly that the science and engineering skills students learn in the process are essential.

“Elementary through secondary students need to be able to evaluate questions such as: How serious is the water challenge? In what ways do human actions affect water systems? How do we measure water quality?” Staudt wrote in the Spring 2016 @Concord newsletter. Studying water resources is also a good vehicle for learning to visualize and analyze data, make hypotheses, use both hands-on and digital instrumentation, and solve problems.

Staudt recognized water as a critical issue in 1998 after a trip to Sierra Leone, where access to clean water was a problem. “I was at UNESCO in Paris and they asked what I thought the most important resource was.” While everyone else was talking about oil and gas, she said water. “Water is shared—there are people upstream and downstream. What you do with your local watershed impacts everyone,” she says. “But nobody knows about their own watershed.”

She has developed NSF-funded projects for middle and high school students that address water issues using hands-on, real-world water quality science and engineering activities. In one project, students from California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts learned to collect data about their own watershed using a simple water testing kit developed by the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN). They shared their data using iSENSE, a web platform designed for students to visualize and exchange scientific data.  

Model My Watershed models human impacts on a watershed.

On another project, she worked with the Stroud Water Research Center in Pennsylvania, and schools in Pennsylvania, Iowa, California, Kansas, and Virginia, to develop a Watershed Tracker app for collecting data and a Model My Watershed app that uses real land use and soil data to analyze the environmental impact of various conservation and development scenarios, such as increasing the number of trees or replacing soil with black top, on a local watershed. Model My Watershed won a Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, and became part of a larger WikiWatershed developed by Stroud.

Staudt and her project partners also developed a dozen video interviews with science and engineering professionals discussing their professions, so students could learn about careers in environmental conservation and engineering. A three-minute video about the project won an NSF Video Showcase Award.

 

The first time Staudt viewed how a large land cover database could be used to digitally visualize a watershed, “It was like SimCity on steroids,” she says. “You could see the result of conservation practices. With 100% forest cover there was almost no runoff. We wanted to let kids see what would happen if they made changes.”

Kids took notice and took action. “Fifth grade students started turning up at local zoning commissions and school board meetings,” says Staudt. With real data in hand, they demonstrated why a parking lot shouldn’t be built on a field.

“Often what you teach in school stays in school,” Staudt says. “We need more environmentally prepared citizens.”

If you have students who are using environmental data to influence their school or town, or they have higher aspirations to statewide or national impact, share your experiences. What data did students collect and how did they use it? Leave a comment here, or tweet @concorddotorg

For more information:

Water SCIENCE Teaching Environmental Sustainability: Model My Watershed USGS: Water

Part I: What is a watershed?

Houston’s downtown flooded after Hurricane Harvey. Florida neighborhoods have struggled with murky standing water after Hurricane Irma. Catastrophe can overwhelm any system, but why doesn’t the ground just absorb the extra water?

In some cases, the answer is a damaged watershed, a concept most people don’t understand, even though we all live in one.

A watershed is the land area where all rain runs downhill to a certain point.

Simply put, a watershed is “all the land area where the rain runs downhill to a certain point,” explains Carolyn Staudt, who leads NSF-funded science projects at the Concord Consortium on land use and its effects on water resources.

Credit: Tony Webster original. CC BY-NC 2.0

A watershed could be described as a naturally occurring traffic cop, efficiently directing water that’s converging from all around to a common location, maybe a lake or the ocean. The water might also be funneled into a deep underground aquifer or be soaked up by trees.

But when the watershed is damaged, gridlock results, water backs up, and flooding occurs.

A wetland or a forest is a good traffic cop. A parking lot or a housing development is not. Once rain hits a paved surface, it has nowhere to go because it can’t be absorbed. Standing water on a sidewalk or a highway is trapped.

Credit: Addison Berry original. CC BY-NC 2.0

Explains Staudt, “Cities have been paving their wetlands,” the very places that naturally absorb water in a flood—or a hurricane. Even a small amount of rain can become a drainage problem where there’s widespread development of wetlands and prairies, which has been the case in Houston,  for example.  

Why is the connection between land use and water resources important to education?

Read “Part II: Students Learn about Water” to answer that question and find out how some students used the information they learned.  

New website design offers view into our focus areas and free resources for teaching and learning STEM

We’re thrilled to announce our new website, designed in collaboration with the team at Blenderbox. They understood us from the very beginning, describing in their first creative abstract a vision for a “forward-looking, accessible, and good weird” website.

We think they did a great job creating a website that reflects our quirky and creative nature, and we’re pleased to be able to invite you to explore our work and use our free STEM digital resources. Read on to see some of the highlights!

The new home page now clearly highlights main focus areas of our work. As the world of educational technology changes, we’re extending our pioneering work in the field of probeware and other tools for inquiry and continuing to develop award-winning STEM models and simulations. We’re also taking the lead in new areas, including data science education, analytics and feedback, and engineering and science connections. Peek into our innovation lab to see the the cutting-edge new tools and technologies we’re exploring and creating for tomorrow’s learners.

You can find the many research and development projects we’re involved in through featured links on the home page. Or find all current projects under Research Projects (under Our Work in the main navigation), where you can search by grade, subject, or focus area.

And, of course, these projects have developed hundreds of resources for STEM learning over the years, all of which we invite you to use for free and share widely. Now you’ll find them all in our updated STEM Resource Finder (previously called the Learn Portal) at learn.concord.org! There, you can search for resources, create classes, assign activities, and track student progress with reports. All in one place. All for free.

To access the STEM Resource Finder, simply follow the link to “explore our free STEM resources” in the gray umbrella bar at the top of any concord.org page, or find the STEM Resource Finder link under Resources in the main navigation menu.

Take a look today—we invite you to explore our website, learn about our work, and use our free STEM resources.

If you have any questions or are looking for particular information on our site, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Leave a comment here or email hello@concord.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Exploring hurricane datasets in the classroom

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey evolved from a series of thunderstorms to one of the first major hurricane landfalls in the United States since early 2005. Right on the heels of Harvey, Hurricane Irma blasted through the Caribbean and onto the U.S. mainland, striking Florida in early September.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which aims to understand and predict changes in weather, provides educational resources and datasets about hurricanes.

The dataset for 2005-2015 is available in our Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP), a free and open-source web-based data analysis tool, geared toward middle and high school students.

Screenshot of NOAA hurricane data embedded in our Common Online Data Analysis Platform.

With all the current catastrophic news about hurricanes, students have lots of questions. Use the data to help them understand the history and characteristics of storms.

  • To investigate the paths that hurricanes generally follow, use the slider to change the year from 2005 to 2015, and watch the data points on the map, which represent the general path of the storms.
  • To determine the storm with the highest wind speed, click the top data point in the wind speed graph, which plots year against highest wind speed. Since data is linked across multiple representations, the data point is highlighted on the graph and in the table, so you can find the name and date of that particular storm (e.g., Wilma, October 15, 2005, with top wind speeds of 160 mph).
  • To learn which year had the most or least number of storms, look at the storms per year graph. Notice an outlier in the data with year 2005, which had 15 storms during that season. (Note: This was the same year as Hurricane Katrina. Select KATRINA in the table and make sure the slider is set to 2005, then see the path of the hurricane graphed on the map.)
  • To see a relationship between wind and pressure, click on the Graph button. Drag the Maximum Wind column header from the table to the vertical (y) axis until the axis turns yellow. Drag the Minimum Pressure to the horizontal (x) axis until the axis turns yellow. (Note: you may need to scroll to the far right of the Case Table to see these columns.) 

Analyzing and interpreting data is one of the key science and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and representing and interpreting data are featured throughout the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for mathematics. Students can use publicly available datasets from storms and other weather events to learn more about the world around them.

STEM Resource Finder: Part I – Register for a Teacher Account and Add a Class

Our updated STEM Resource Finder (previously called the Learn Portal) at learn.concord.org now allows you to search for resources, create classes, assign activities, and track student progress with reports. All in one place. All for free.

Register for a Teacher Account

Follow these easy steps to create an account in the STEM Resource Finder.

  1. Click the Register button in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Complete the registration form with your name and create a password.
  3. Select the radio button for “Teacher,” create a username, and provide an email address you can access easily.
    • Complete the fields about your location and school.
    • If you don’t find your school listed, or you are a homeschool, click “I can’t find my school in the list” to enter the name of your school.
  4. After registering, you’ll receive an email from help@concord.org. Click the “Confirm Account” button in the body of the email to activate your account.
    • If you do not receive the activation email in your inbox, please check your junk or spam mailboxes, or any quarantine set up by your email provider.
    • If you cannot access the email in your junk or spam mailboxes or quarantined email, please contact help@concord.org for assistance.
  5. By clicking the link in the activation email, you’ll be directed to the STEM Resource Finder. 
  6. Click the Home icon in the upper right — that’s your own home page, where you can create and manage your classes, and track student progress.

Add a New Class

  1. To get started, Add a New Class by clicking the link on the left and enter Class Setup Information. Provide a class name, description, and applicable grade level(s). (Note: Please disregard the Term field as it’s currently not working. We’re working to update this soon.)
  2. Create a unique Class Word, which students will use to enroll in this class. Class words can be more than one word, but cannot include any special characters (such as *, @, and %). The Class Word is not case sensitive.
  3. You’re now ready to assign resources to this class. Click the Concord Consortium logo in the upper left to search all resources or view curated collections of resources by clicking the Collections link in the top navigation bar.

Additional information is available in the User Guide.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Chad’s Great American Eclipse Chase: Part 11—Returning home, and recalling

This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.

The final leg of the trip is here at last. Beginning the last push back from Scranton, it seems we can feel life already drifting downward, returning to the quotidian from its brief perch among the cosmic reaches of the Sun and Moon’s conjunction. We can’t help but remember the moments over again, though. Transient as it may be, totality sticks with you, and we recall once more the rush of excitement as the shadow swept across and the mysterious beauty shone out. This video of our reactions as totality began—and receded far too quickly—captures the ebullience and awe in a way that no words ever could:

Yes – it’s really that exciting—for anyone and everyone.

So, as we find our eclipse reunion attendees once again scattering to the winds and find ourselves now driving along familiar roads toward home, we can’t help but smile inwardly ever so slightly.

Group pic eclipse chasers

Our eclipse-chasing group takes one last reunion pic before heading our separate ways…until the next one!

Because even as friendships fall back into comfortable step and familiar surroundings rise up to greet us, waiting and unchanged, we know that we may be back among it all, but are simply not quite the same ourselves. Once you’ve experienced a total solar eclipse, you’ve gained a new perspective on the universe, a more humble take on humanity, and a renewed sense of connection to both. Though it always sounds sappy, the truth is that feelings of such depth are common and understood among eclipse watchers. Another thing that is shared? The impulse to do as our group did immediately after this eclipse ended—pull out the maps and charts and study the slate of upcoming eclipses around the world. Where next? A cruise ship off Chile in 2019? A visit to the plains of Patagonia in 2020? And of course the Great American eclipse redux in 2024, for which we’re already studying locations and weather maps…

Recognizing that it’s almost futile to try to bring the essence across, I urge you instead to check out this great piece from Vox, especially the video linked below. These interviews of some of the world’s top eclipse chasers represent an attempt to capture some portion of the ineffable something that drives them all forward. Better than any others I’ve found, their words capture the sense of why we all headed on the road this August 2017—and why anyone who made it successfully to totality this week can’t help but dream of their next opportunity to stand under the shadow of the moon.

VOX eclipse chasing piece background image

 

Chad’s Great American Eclipse Chase: Part 10—The road home – Pondering the details

This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.

Sigh. The drive back. Just like the partial phases of the eclipse itself, everything passes by in reverse, but it’s never quite as exciting. Still, as we drive back we’re running into fellow eclipse travelers from across the country everywhere we stop and stay, and it’s clear that memories and thoughts of the eclipse remain top of mind for everyone. The kids have gotten in the habit of looking out the window first thing in the morning to inspect for clouds and looking at the sky at 1:27 every afternoon to judge whether clouds would have blocked the sun, had things happened that day. I share in the wonder, too, catching myself seeing eclipses in the sky ahead as I drive. I also find myself pondering a number of aspects of this particular eclipse and wondering about the questions they raise.

“Not quite night”

Difference between 1991 and 2017

The difference in the size of the Moon’s shadow as it passed over us during the 1991 eclipse (black circle) and the 2017 eclipse (white oval) is striking.

This eclipse was interesting in the way the light of totality felt — we definitely noticed during the eclipse itself that it definitely didn’t look like night, and didn’t really even look like a weird twilight, the way the 1991 Baja eclipse had. It turns out that there is a very understandable explanation for this. The Baja eclipse was very distinctive in that many factors lined up to make it one of the longest eclipses in the century. This meant that the dark part of the moon’s shadow, the umbra, was extremely large.

At the point where we stood in Baja, the umbra for the 1991 eclipse was 257 km wide. In comparison, the umbra over Gallatin was only 115 km wide. As a result, the lit portions of the Earth were much closer during totality, and the darkness was more muted. We weren’t on a point where we could see the horizon, but had we been, the effect of the 360º “sunset” on the horizon would have been much brighter than the one we saw in Baja.

Stunning rush of darkness

This is one I’ve been puzzling out ever since the moments following totality. The way in which darkness overtook us during this eclipse was very striking. Whereas we recall the darkness descending during the 1991 eclipse, our memory of the transition from day to dusky totality was of a more gradual phenomenon. In contrast, the darkness of this eclipse surged in almost violently. You can see this somewhat in the shadow bands video in the previous post; the fall of darkness and the degree to which it took us all by surprise is evident in the light in the video and in the change in reactions of everyone in the final seconds of the video.

I’ve spent considerable time looking into this question and am just beginning to puzzle out an answer. I thought it might be obvious, as the two eclipses were so different in so many ways. However, the most obvious factor, the speed of the moon’s shadow (also known as umbral velocity) was almost identical between the two events. Where we stood in Baja, the shadow overtook us at 1407 mph (0.629 km/s), while in Gallatin, the umbra hit us traveling at almost the same rate: 1447 mph (0.647 km/s).

The factors that go into this speed at any point on Earth’s surface are very interesting — ultimately, it breaks down into a race between the speed of the moon and the linear speed of the Earth at the particular point of observation. Because the Moon orbits the Earth from east to west at a velocity of about 1 km/s, its shadow travels at the same rate. The linear speed of Earth’s rotation is about 0.5 km/s at the equator, and less at higher and lower latitudes, so the shadow always travels from west to east, and does so most slowly when falling on the equator. This is a complicated brew, of course, and the calculation of umbral velocity is an active area of discussion. It is also all mixed in with additional considerations of geometry—the shadow falls obliquely as it first meets Earth and again as it exits, and thus travels much more quickly at those points. (At first landfall in Oregon on Monday, for example, the moon’s shadow was traveling 2416 mph (1.080 km/s), almost twice the rate it swept across us in Gallatin.)

Concorde and eclipse

An amazing image of the Concorde during the 1973 eclipse over Africa

For eclipse chasers, of course, this all provides a bit of a recipe for finding the longest totality. As with our experience in Baja, finding a point where your speed is as fast as possible relative to the shadow’s is essential. For most of us, this means finding a point near to the equator. But there are other ways to do it—in a now-legendary (and perhaps never to be repeated) story from in 1973, a group of eclipse chasers did the ultimate, commandeering a prototype of the Concorde and chasing the moon’s shadow across most of Africa at above the speed of sound. This amazing feat, which resulted in a mind-blowing 74-minute experience of totality, was captured in a short and fascinating French-language documentary clip. This is the stuff that eclipse chasers can only dream of, despite their attempts to do similar things. It makes for some legendary images as well.

The cool thing about this eclipse was that there were so many observers, which permitted many things that have rarely been possible otherwise. Some of the observers were in space, which made for some amazing shots, including this one from NASA, in which you can see the shadow pass across the whole US.

The moon's shadow as seen from space on Aug. 21 (Credit: NASA)

The moon’s shadow as seen from space on Aug. 21 (Credit: NASA)

If the difference in rate we perceived is because of something other than mere perception and psychology (indeed, those may turn out to be the crowning aspects overall), it’s definitely more complicated. Two possible other factors that could be at play are the difference in our location relative to the centerline between the two eclipses and the effect of the Moon’s apparent size relative to the Sun. Some of this boils down to surprisingly arcane geometry, and I’m still working both of these ideas through somewhat—stay tuned for more thoughts in an epilogue post!

Coronal predictions are improving

One interesting thing about this eclipse was the fact that there were some notable coronal predictions ahead of time, and they were generally fairly good. Check out the comparison between the latest prediction before the 21st and the corona itself. Not too shabby—the similarities are definitely there…

Prediction of the Sun's corona during the Aug. 21 eclipse

Predictive Science’s prediction of the Sun’s corona during the Aug. 21 eclipse

Mark Rosengarten eclipse image

Mark Rosengarten’s stunning image of the Aug. 21 eclipse

 

Not-prominent prominences

Solar flares Aug. 2017

An amazing capture of the solar flares during the Aug. 2017 eclipse. (Credit—Flickr: moshen)

One other thing that was quite notable about this eclipse was the fact that there were prominences, but that they weren’t readily apparent to the naked eye. At very first glance, I thought I saw a very apparent prominence, but I was mistaken—the perception of the eclipse with the naked eye was primarily one of black disc and feathery corona. However, through binoculars or a telescope, a number of prominences were quite visible, including many in a closely connected line along the sun’s perimeter.

Sunspots during partial phases

Sunspot group 2671 was clearly visible during the eclipse’s partial phases

Prominences are fascinating and complex, and are closely associated with sunspot activity among other things, and we had some interesting luck this year. Despite the fact that we’re very near the 11-year solar minimum of sunspot activity, a new sunspot group appeared just prior to the 21st—Sunspot 2671 came into view on Aug. 14 and the 27-day rotation period of the Sun made it move into just the right position that we were able to see it during the partial phases of this eclipse.

Tracking totality—in total

The flares and prominences, as well as the corona, change and evolve across the course of totality. These changes can be essential to understanding solar activity, but are generally almost impossible to observe during the fleeting moments of coverage. This eclipse was different, though. Citizen astronomers across the country banded together to form the Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse Experiment (CATE), in which they organized and crowd-sourced video from a series of carefully calibrated and positioned telescopes at 50-mile increments along the path of totality. While they will be assembling and studying the resulting video for years, the first cut was just released, and it’s amazing to see, even if grainy and in its first stages. More evidence as we continue our drive back north that this was truly an eclipse to remember.

2017 Totality movie – first cut

The initial cut of the Citizen CATE movie of the entirety of totality on Aug. 21, 2017

Chad’s Great American Eclipse Chase: Part 9—First impressions, and the experience of totality

This series details the eclipse-chasing exploits of our President and CEO, Chad Dorsey, as he heads down to Tennessee on a quest for the total solar eclipse. See the whole series.

Wow. That’s pretty much all one can say after an event like that. Once an eclipse has passed, it’s hard to capture it in words. We’ve had almost a full day since the event, which ended up so filled with plenty of excitement and recounting of individual experiences that there was barely a second to log experiences in one way or another. We’re off to another day shortly, so I’m posting some main impressions here, and will return with a few more in-depth posts about the event, how it unfolded, and some musings on various details.

Partial phases and setup

The atmosphere here at the Fairvue Plantation was calm, but buzzing with activity. A band was scheduled to play for a viewing party across the eclipse timing, and people were busy gathering and setting up chairs and tables all over. In the end, there were surprisingly few people in attendance, but we were able to share the partial phases with many of them.

We set up telescopes to project the partial phases on a card so they could be easily seen by many. There were several sunspots visible on the face of the sun, and it was great to watch the sun’s disc be slowly eaten away by the moon. First contact, at 11:59 local time, started the excitement buzzing around the whole group. The remainder of the early partial phases went by slowly, with people watching the projection and trying to capture digiscoped images through the telescope we had set up for direct viewing.

Late partial phases, pinhole projections, and shadow bands!

Shadow bands

A screenshot from our video of shadow bands immediately before totality

During the later partial phases, about a half hour or so to totality, things really got going. The trees all aroundus projected readily visible images, patterning the sidewalk everywhere with miniature crescent suns. Guests arriving for the party or relocating from the special Eclipse Brunch were awestruck at the zoomed telescope views. We spent some of the time looking at the great DIY Sun Science app, developed by colleagues of our Sherry Hsi at the Lawrence Hall of Science, trying to decipher the various filtered views and predict what the Sun’s corona and prominences might look like when totality hit.

As the minutes moved on, the light became extremely eerie. We kept telling each other to stare at the ground, and marveled together at how weird things felt. The light seemed almost yellow, with the world feeling stripped somehow of its usual vitality. In the ten minutes or so prior to totality, we quickly grabbed a sheet from the cottage and extended it in the hope of perhaps seeing shadow bands. This was rewarded with one of the big successes of this particular eclipse — shadow bands were clearly visible across the length of the sheet, dancing quickly and then disappearing, then returning again. The video below  captures them if you squint carefully, though as we noted before, they’re particularly difficult to photograph. They returned once again in the moments just prior to totality, and then…

The Rush of Totality

…darkness was upon us! In a literal rush this time. In discussion afterward, it seemed to all of us that totality’s darkness moved in with an unexpected ferocity, catching us almost by surprise (more than almost, in my case, as you can see in the video above). Then, totality. And the screaming. And the staring. Oh, the staring – what an amazing sight. First impressions? The corona was compact, but had some large lobes in different places. Prominences were almost not visible at all initially, but were visible through the telescope, which I moved into place during the later phases of totality. A line of prominences was visible along about 1/4 of the disc, light red rather than the fiery red points of the 1991 eclipse we saw in Baja.

Diamond ring effect

A capture of the diamond ring, shot through our scope in Gallatin, TN

The darkness during totality was much less than in the 1991 eclipse — it was dark out (the automatic lights on the cottage turned on mid-way through!) but it didn’t feel or look like night time to me in particular. Instead, the total eclipse felt as if it were suspended in the sky during a dusky evening, like a pearl hanging above a dim landscape.

And then—it was over. Way faster than anyone expected, or certainly wanted. I had read reports from veteran chasers in the days prior stating that no matter what, it would feel like it was 8 seconds long. That was about exactly right—when we went around the group afterward, we pretty much all agreed that was how long it felt. This feeling of brevity shouldn’t have been surprising—after all, this was almost three times shorter than our experience in Baja—but it was still just way, way, way too short.

But exciting. Oh, exciting. The joy of seeing totality is hard to match or better, but in this case, I found a way, by being able to share it with the next generation. I’ll write more in a more comprehensive post soon, but nothing I write can capture the unbridled feeling of totality as well as the emotional reactions and almost primal disbelief of those experiencing it. Still to come: video of our group experiencing totality…