Eclipse! “Chasing the Sun,” by Linda Bugbee

On August 21, thousands of people will gather in parts of Oregon to experience one of the world’s great wonders–a solar eclipse. Linda Bugbee will be there for sure. Linda, who joined GAB online from Virginia back in the spring of 2016, told us all about eclipses. She and her husband had been following eclipses for years. She got us all very excited and, in our enthusiasm we all vowed to meet in Oregon for this magic event. That’s not happening but I know we’ll all be thinking of Linda and her husband, George, this August 21 and wishing we could be there with them. 

This is Linda’s story of how she and George got hooked on eclipses and how it’s changed their life.

Sometime in 2003, George asked me if I would like to see a total solar eclipse. He was watching astronomy lectures while exercising in the attic those days, and had learned about them in his lessons. I hesitated and made some kind of face, until he added, “It would involve a two-week cruise around Tahiti.”

“Yes!” I replied immediately. I was in.

Thus started our career as eclipse chasers.

It turns out there are quite a few folks who go to the far corners of the earth every year or two to witness the moon traverse in front of the sun and totally occlude it in the middle of the day. There are several tour companies who organize travel to the eclipses and pick the best sites for viewing based on things like location along the moon’s path, weather, and moisture content in the air.

At first, it was the allure of Tahiti and being on the marvelous cruise ship “Paul Gauguin” that pulled me in. Indeed, I loved the luxury of the small ship, the fine dining, the midnight chocolate buffets, and having breakfast on the balcony of our cabin every morning while overlooking the South Pacific. But I found I came to enjoy traveling with so many intelligent people–some hobbyists like George, some bona fide scientists and, of course, our favorite Berkeley professor of astronomy, Alex Filipinnko.

G_watching_the_sun

Our first eclipse was the most exciting. We were far out at sea, hundreds of miles from Tahiti and far beyond where ordinary cruise ships go. The veteran eclipse watchers, serious photographers, and NASA scientists set up their elaborate photography equipment in all corners of the deck. There was a palpable excitement on the ship all morning as people staked out their spots with deck chairs. Continue reading

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