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I'm SO excited for this. I'm traveling out to Nebraska, and so far the weather patterns are looking good! Has anyone here ever seen totality before? If so, do you have any tips?
I haven't seen a totality before, but can relay advice I've taken from others (Midtskogen has seen 2 and may be able to supplement this). Actually I guess this will serve as a brief overview of all the things to do (and not to do) and what to watch for throughout the eclipse.0) First contact. With filters you see a tiny nick appear in the Sun, heralding the start of the eclipse. But even as it grows to cover about 50% of the Sun, nothing else obvious happens -- it's still a bright ordinary day, except that a piece of the Sun is missing.
1) As partial phases get deeper (e.g. >70%, or about 20 minutes before totality), you may start to notice changes in the quality of light and shadow. At 70% they are subtle, but will get stronger and with increasing rapidity, as totality gets closer. It will no longer feel like an ordinary day.
2) About 5 minutes before totality, you may notice it is getting darker in the west than in the east. The shadow is approaching. The light all around you will be failing, the colors fading away. If there are some scattered high clouds in the west, you may soon notice them vanish as the shadow sweeps over them. You may also feel it getting colder.
3) Less than 2 minutes out, the Sun will be an insanely thin crescent and the light will be dropping dramatically. Watch the western sky and horizon for the shadow, but also check the ground for shadow bands -- thin waves of shadow flowing and shimmering. They're best seen on a flat, light-colored surface, like a large sheet of paper. Shadow bands are very curious and perhaps the most rarely seen of eclipse phenomena, because usually people are looking at the sky rather than the ground at this time.
4) In the final seconds, the crescent sun will break up into little beads of light, each shimmering and vanishing away, the last one lasting for another split second before getting sucked into the black void of the Moon. The shadow engulfs you.
5) Now that it's totality, it's safe to observe the Sun without filters. Try to take it all in. Your time here is precious and brief, and there is much to see!
Don't take too much time to fiddle with equipment like cameras or telescopes during totality. Make sure you observe it with your eyes (binoculars are great, too, for seeing details in the corona and prominences).
Take a few moments to observe the surrounding sky, the colors on the horizon, and the behavior of the people and any animals around you. Also observe the planets. Venus will be very bright and obvious. You might also spot Mercury and Mars closer to the Sun, and some bright stars. (The sky during totality at Lincoln, NE
) But don't waste too much time trying to observe the stars, when you can see them much better at night.
6) A few seconds before totality ends, you'll notice the western side of the Moon brightening, and glowing red. This is the chromosphere, the sun's lower, reddish-colored atmosphere, reappearing. Very
soon the intensely bright white photosphere will reappear, the "diamond ring", signaling the end of totality. Observe it for no more than 3 seconds, then look away or put the eclipse glasses back on. At this point all the partial phases of the eclipse play in reverse. Look for shadow bands again, and the lunar shadow sweeping away to the East.
7) Start making plans for the next one.