Quora: What I Didn't Know About the Eclipse

President Trump approves. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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Answer from Stefan Pociask, wildlife researcher:

E minus 1 minute and counting! It's almost here! I waited outside by the lake. Truly excited. My cell phone camera was set on "selfie mode" with the camera reversed. I laid it on the ground, pointing at the sky, so that I could both watch the sun on my view screen, and capture this historic event. I watched my wrist watch. Less than a minute to go.

Let's go back in time 3 minutes, to E minus 4 minutes and counting.

Everyone in the neighborhood was outside. Some holding their $15 Eclipse Glasses; but most without, since they were sold out days ago in the entire city of metro Charlotte. I saw a family outside, with someone struggling to keep the glasses on an infant. I saw someone with a black & white dog happily trying his glasses on. There was a hush as everyone seemed to be whispering, awaiting the greatest celestial event that most of us would ever see. Those of us without the super over-priced glasses were waiting for the near-darkness. I checked my watch and ran out my apartment door. I still had a few minutes to get set up. I saw some cool shadows on the ground, where the sun was filtering through the trees onto the sidewalk. I snapped a couple quick pics, smiled at the odd beauty of it briefly and made my way into the park, among the trees. I thought it would be a cool place to record from, with the woods framing my shot. It was almost time! I was giddy!

Now just for a minute, let's go back in time, further still, another 24 hours… to the day before.

The Solar Eclipse 2017 is one day away. It was on the news, in the papers, everywhere you looked. It distracted a country that is troubled; problems with our government, our leadership, investigations, KKK, White Supremacists and Nazis were in the news. People are hating each other. This distraction is a good thing. We need this. There are no politics in the sun. Instead, we have scientists of all ilks explaining what is to come. Warnings about not getting blinded. Schedules of when and where you could see the eclipse across the whole nation, coast to coast. There were a hundred maps shown, giving the path it would take. Lots of people would be getting "The Totality"! 100% coverage of the sun, by the moon. Many people were taking trips to be in the path on the special day. Here is one such map:

As you can see, the gray band is where there will be 100% coverage. Each line on either side meant 10% less. The two lines on either side of the center indicate the 90% coverage zone. Me… I live in North Carolina, in Charlotte, which is almost at the end of the gray band near the east coast. Charlotte isn't exactly within that grey band though; it's a teensy bit to the north. I'm about 35 miles away from the edge of it. The scientists said I was in a 98% coverage zone! Actually, 97.8%, to be exact. 97.8% of the sun would be covered, where I was. That's sounds good to me! That means only 2.2% showing. That's almost nothing! Charlotte will be a great place to watch, without getting in those giant traffic jams just a few miles away. All my neighbors had the same thoughts. 97.8% darkness will still be really cool, for sure.

Okay, back to E minus 1 minute and counting. The seconds tick away. No one really knows how quickly that 98% darkness will overtake us. This is a first for most of us; unless we were around in 1918. The light around me was slightly dimmed. Barely noticeable… so far. Just enough to make things seem just a little bit "off". It should get dark any second now. I watched my view screen, laying on the ground. Tick tick tick tick tick… hmm… seems like a minute has passed already. My watch must be a bit off. Tick tick tick tick tick…. Man, a minute has surely passed! I look around at the others. Most are now looking at each other, talking louder. Another minute passes. "Hey!! What the..?! Where is it?" I wait. People are starting to disperse. I see confusion in every person. Everyone is questioning. Everyone is clearly disappointed. "Where was our 98% darkness?!!" People start to walk back to their homes; shrugging their shoulders at each other. Apparently… that was it! It didn't get dark, hardly at all! We all tried to take it in stride. Many people were still half-smiling, after The Celestial Event of the Century. I felt a collective "Oh well". I stopped recording, and went back in the house. I checked the timer on my camera, and isolated the exact moment of maximum eclipse. Here it is:

THAT… evidently… is what 2.2% of the sun looks like. A mere 2.2% is still totally blinding! What they didn't tell us, is that you actually have to be "IN" the shadow to get any effects of darkness. Being close doesn't mean squat, unless you have Eclipse Glasses, and you can see the moon covering nearly all of the sun. Only then, will you see a small 2% crescent on one edge. If you are not "IN" the shadow, really… pretty much nothing happens! You know… you'd think someone would have mentioned that tiny detail. We were all lead to believe that we would get 98% of the effect! Uh… no. But better luck next time, in 7 years! Next time, I and millions of others will know to travel the 35 miles… or 50, or 200 miles to actually be in the shadow. "Close" doesn't count. It doesn't get dark or anything.

Sighhhh… oh well. Live and learn, as they say.

BUT!… this long-winded story is not over. I discovered another thing "they" didn't tell us. Something super cool! Remember those pics I took of the shadows through the leaves? It was just a couple minutes before eclipse. An amazing phenomenon happened, that I never heard a single thing about. This might be better than seeing a 2% crescent of the sun! What I found in those pictures of the sidewalk were HUNDREDS of 2% crescents! HUNDREDS of ecplipses! Look closely at these shadows!:

Each one of those little curves is an image of the sun at 98% eclipse!! And these:

Is that awesome, or what?! A phenomenon! Glasses? I don't need no stinkin' glasses! To me, it looks like a ghostly, old, black & white photo… a massive crown of people, tightly packed… seen from above. Perhaps Ellis Island, with everyone wearing a babushka, or scarf, tied over their heads, all milling about in their new home. Or hooded ghosts from The Great War, a hundred years ago. Or maybe a faded tintype of a Civil War battlefield, unfortunate souls lying in the mud. Or even a roiling river just before it plunges over the falls. Much is to be seen in this celestial yet Earthly photo. This photo of a thousand suns. All the little crescents were swaying with the wind, as the leaves filtered the crescent-shaped light that was coming from the sun. And each leaf cast its own eclipse-shaped shadow on the ground! How many people noticed this? How many of those who took a thousand mile trip to be in the shadow zone experienced this beautiful kaleidoscope that teamed up an eclipse, with the leaves of a tree? It's beautiful! I hope others saw this awesome celestial artwork. Could I have been the only one? I doubt it. But… what seemed to be super-underwhelming, turned out to have an actual silver-lining. Spectacular!

I don't know what this phenomenon is called. Surely someone can explain it. But for now, it's my special little secret that I'm sharing with you all. Wasn't such a bad eclipse, after all.

So there you have it… the rest of the story, and a few very important things "they" didn't tell you about The Eclipse.

What's the most important thing we weren't told about the 2017 solar eclipse? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: