On the road, something grabbing passes by and wakes me up, it’s already over 6am, light and very dusty. For a change I slept in the car tonight. I did not want to get cold again, yesterday someone had seen a rattlesnake and warned us about it when coming from the Painted Mountains, and there are also fire ants here. Full set. Besides, we returned to the camp late last night, when many of us had gone to sleep very early before the day of the climax of the trip, and I did not want to disturb them in the dark by rustling around in the tent when setting up my place. Enough of excuses. I did get cold anyway, the warm hills of yesterda had cooled the air down to + 15 ° C in the morning. (I train looking at the thermometer at regular intervals.)
Yes, I have a thermometer! Agnese had by the way sent information about NASA Citizen Science project on the eclipse, called GLOBE Observer, where every wannabe scientist can participate by recording data on natural processes on the eclipse day. I left the preparation up until the very last night before the flight, when I decided that if I had the opportunity once, then why not try and I adjust one of my UKHAS.net nodes as a thermometer – I put the display, the solar panel, fixed code, then again and then again, and ready, works. Because DIY is better than buying!
With the GLOBE Observer, however, there is a problem, the application requires the internet, but of course there is no such in a desert. Well, ok, I’ll record the data just for my joy.
The sky is clear, just a thin band of clouds in the southern side. While still sleeping in the car, I looked at it, trying to figure out where it was going, and decided that everything would be fine, as it looked like it calmly slided past and would not approach. Daumants, however, investigated it more critically and expressed pessimistic comments on how everything will be bad.
It’s only half past 6, but the road to the park’s parking lot and the parking lot itself is already full, but the stream of cars is just flowing and flowing, till there is an endless line on the road. The idea was already mentioned yesterday that some might not go up in the Painted Mountains in the morning, but will stay to observe the eclipse right here at the camp site. I like this more and more, as almost all the drivers and passengers of the visible cars will go to the mountains, but there really is only a road and a small roadside on the hill where to stand, so it smells like a crowd for a couple of hours. It can be that the solar eclipse is a very social happening, I do not know yet, but it doesn’t tempt me. Salvis and Laura will stay here, yay. I courtesy ask again if this will not be a private event for them, but no, and the three of us stay at the camp, take mats for laying down and climb higher up the hill – closer to the Sun.
At 9:07am the moon begins to bite in the cheek of the Sun, which from a round pancake slowly transforms into a classical [Latvian] patty. Meanwhile, it has slowly become dark and much cooler. The two others even put on their jackets, I was not so provident. 22 minutes after 10am is THE moment. As we look through the special glasses that hold off 99.99% of the light, we see how the sun disappears completely, and removing the glasses is woooww .. It’s so unusual, it’s dark around, there are three or four stars or planets visible in the sky, I think they are Venus, Pollux and Capella. It seems that you can see the sun’s crown – something there looks like three huge rays.
It is not completely dark or black night, it is quite deep dusk – Ilgonis later says that it is due to the same clouds that dissipate the light from outside the shade. Yup, even at the place which by statistics should have the slightest chance of clouds, there are clouds. At first they were on one side, but now they have already taken over all the sky. They are thin, transparent enough to see the darkened Sun, do not interfere too much.
Two minutes and four seconds pass in one moment. Too fast. Although my camera does not really allow it, I am still trying to capture in pictures the darkness in the middle of the day for memory, until Laura suddenly exclaims: “Kristap, look!” And this is the best view – a diamond ring, a moment when the Moon still covers almost the whole Sun and only the very edge of the Sun has gone past. There is still visible the pale ring and the brilliant Sun, which for people in ancient times has probably looked as a diamond. Impressive and thrilling view. Was it worth it? Yes!
Well, and beyond all in the reverse – once again it becomes brighter, warmer, the world is waking up, cars start to drive, the masses dissipate, and all the eclipse-tour participants gradually return to the camp to share their impressions, gradually gather their belongings and prepare for the road.
After this only entering Washington is in today’s plan, where a visit of LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatory is scheduled for the evening, but there is still a ride of several hours to Richland.
It turns out that a congestion is possible even on such a outskirts and in a desert. Back to Mitchell to send out postcards we get fairly quickly, but there are many miles after that which we do in a walking pace. This is not Yosemite, here nobody offers carrots while being in a traffic jam, a shame. When traffic finally disperses, one of our drivers lets his feelings wild and then talks to the local police about the consequences of speeding. Nothing too bad, just a warning.
The following road is fairly smooth and runs along the Columbia River, which separates Oregon from Washington, but we don’t get to cross the river that soon. The bridge has been narrowed and there is an accident somewhere, resulting in another giant congestion in which we spend more than an hour. In this way we may be late LIGO! In fact, this is the case, because we have to be there at 6pm, but we are there only at 7:30pm. The second team has already managed to check out everything and leaves when we just arrive. Fortunately, the tours are still going on. It is quite interesting in LIGO Gravitational Wave Observatory. Comments on how meaningful it is to throw in such a money in order to have only two validated gravitational wave occurances and another potential one within these years I will keep to myself, but it is interesting enough anyway. LIGO is a very sensitive instrument (although not the best in the world), its resolution is less than the the size of an atomic. A large instrument seeking to measure vanishingly small. It senses both the wind-induced pressure on the walls of the building and even such distant events as the ocean waves off the coast far away in Alaska. True story.
After the excursion we visit the local amateur astronomy club’s star-watching event at the car park for a bit. As far as I understood, they do that on a regular basis on Mondays or so. They have two telescopes, through which one can look at Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is as usual, but I have not seen Saturn this year yet. It’s always interesting to look at the planet with ears, and here in the south, it is much higher above the horizon than in our latitudes.
We find the city of Pasco and our motel quite easily, and, hey, even here they have a pool! If it is there, then it should be used, but the water in it is coooold. This is no longer the hot south. Bit by bit also other people who are awake come around the pool to simply sit and talk. The first team, unfortunately, did not reach LIGO, they had to spend about two hours in that huge congestion to Washington. Well, maybe tomorrow morning?
The evening is spoiled a bit by Rihard’s arguing with Agnese about me and my arguing with Agnese about it. I expected something like this all day long, it is not a surprise. The problem is apparently that Rihards is not getting to drive enough, but in turn I have reservations about his driving style and attitude. And also, both me and Agnese have rebuffed him without even knowing it. Not sure why other main drivers can drive when they want, and I need to be some sort of exception. At the end, we reach an agreement that he will be driving for two hours in the morning. Gleb says that I have to bear “for only three more days, three days!” Someone else adds that it’s a bit of a feeling that everyone is fed up with everyone and we just need to wait the end of the trip. Oh, well.