This column was provided by San Benito resident and amateur astronomer David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
My first total solar eclipse I attended was in Egypt in March 2006. One of the most spectacular events I’ve had the pleasure to witness. All I remember is when it was all over, I was thinking; I want to see it again, and again.
And that chance was not to happen again until 2017 in Oregon. A number of my astronomy buds and I made plans to attend. The date was approaching when my back went out on me. It was so painful that I had to stay behind. Never was I so disappointed, except when I was shipped out to Thule Airforce Base in Greenland (That is another story).
But my buddies were more than willing to express their excitement when they came back and told me about how great it was and showed me all their pictures. Nice of them but certainly not the same as being there.
But wait, there is another total solar eclipse coming to a town near you. Well, maybe not so near you, but certainly Texas is a lot nearer to you than Chile or South Africa— these are just some of the locations that we always seem to hear about for the next up and coming eclipses in the near future, way out of reach for the average American to financially attend.
But wait, you heard me say Texas? Yes, you did.
So April 8, 2024 is our next total solar eclipse, this one is close enough for my astronomy buds and I to attend. Healthy back or not, hell or high water, I’m going to be there.
The total portion of the eclipse starts off at sunrise just south of the Hawaiian Islands, hits land at Mazatlan, Mexico and the U.S. at Radar Base, Texas, which is not a military base as its name may imply, but a small town of several hundred people. I’m sure that number will balloon on eclipse day.
The eclipse then travels on through Texas, on up through Missouri, Ohio, New York, and ends its U.S. visit through Mars Hill, Maine. Then the eclipse ends at sunset just west of Europe in the Atlantic Ocean. Quite a trip for one day.
Now if you happen to miss out on this 2024 eclipse, don’t worry for the next one will be (write this date down) Aug. 23, 2044. Not sure if I can make this one myself, I tend to get really busy that time of year. And for the fact that I will be 102 years of age might have something to say about me making the trip or not.
The people that were fortunate enough to experience the 2017 eclipse will not have to be convinced to seek out the 2024 eclipse. If you can catch it, it will be something you’ll rate at the top of your list of experiences, whether it is your first or your 21st catch.
April 15 I was invited, along with my astronomer friend Ron Ober, to participate with our telescopes and wisdom, well I brought my telescope and Ron bought his wisdom, in the Moonlight Walk at the De Anza Trail. R.E.A.C.H. San Benito Parks Foundation partnered with BenitoLink and Twin Oaks volunteers to welcome over 100 San Benito County residents and guest as they were guided on this unique adventure.
Upon registering, participants began their one to two-mile journey to various viewing points along the Anza Tail. One of the points of interest was our telescope viewing area. This was set up for walkers to take a break and take a close-up look at the moon. As the moon rose in the eastern sky above the Diablo Mountain range viewers were only allowed a mere 30 minutes to enjoy the Moon’s presence. For by this time the wind unfortunately blew in the clouds and covered up our object of interest. So it was time to pack up and head on home. I think next year I’ll have to put in for some better weather.
Thanks go out to Kim Johnson and my contact Valerie Egland for inviting us and all the volunteers for making us feel welcome. Ron and I had a great time, and we look forward to next year’s event. If you didn’t get a chance to go on the hike this year, be sure to be on the lookout for next year’s hike.
What’s coming up this month:
May 5: Moon is at apogee (251,833 miles from Earth)
May 6: Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks
May 8: First Quarter Moon
May 16: Full Moon
May 16: Total Lunar Eclipse