I saw the total solar eclipse in August of 2017, but it wasn’t local – I had to fly to Tennessee for that. If you ever get the chance to see one, even if you must travel to do so, I cannot recommend it enough. It probably won’t Change Your Life, but it’s an experience that simply cannot be captured in words or film or photographs. Just keep in mind that if you do need to travel for a total eclipse, you should book a hotel as early as they will let you. If you do manage find an empty hotel room in the path of totality less than a year before the event, I promise you will pay orders of magnitude more for it. The next total eclipse in the US is April 2024, which means book your rooms now!
I used to manage my university’s obervatory and we had a 16" telescope in a dome and several smaller 'scopes for out on the deck. It. Was. Awesome. Because it was such a lax atmosphere I was able to go up there anytime I wanted to, not just on public viewing or astronomy lab nights. I miss it so so so much. It was so cool just wandering around in the sky on the quiet nights. Don’t get me wrong, the public viewing nights were great too because I got to teach astronomy and physics to strangers, and the kids were the best because they’d lose their minds over saturn or jupiter. And then there were the star parties! You haven’t lived until you’ve heard 200+ geeks singing “we’re whalers on the moon” in unison. Man oh man it was so much fun!
The Eta Aquariid meteor shower is on-going currently, but it’s a bigger show in the Southern hemisphere. For the Northern hemisphere the big two are coming up later in the year. Those would be the Perseids and the Geminids. Other meteor showers, like the Leonids and the Orionids, vary more from year to year, but sometimes you’ll get a good show with them too. Honestly any clear night is good for meteors if you are patient, its just your odds go up significantly during the showers.
When I booked our solar eclipse trip I absolutely AGONIZED over trying to find the place least likely to be cloudy. In the end it’s really all up to luck; we staked out our spot at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Meanwhile people in Illinois packed into a stadium to watch got lucky with a 15-second break during totality:
Anyway just went out to check the lunar eclipse but it’s either behind the clouds or the trees this time.
Our local science museum hosted a trip to Nashville for the '17 eclipse, and we had a last minute change of location for viewing – The Weather Channel asked our tour guide to be their on-air commentator for the eclipse locally.
Ya know, you want to figure TWC has a clue where the viewing should be good.
Precisely 90 seconds before totality, a cloud flicked up and covered the sun and stayed there. The only thing I got out of it was to learn what it sounds like when 15,000 people simultaneously say, “Ugh…”.
One of the best meteor sightings I had was during an intermittently cloudy night of the Perseids. A very bright meteor burned up inside a cloud, first appearing as a streak of white light within the cloud and then ending in a bright flash. It was quite beautiful. I also have seen meteors which burn with a green trail and end in a burst of white light.
I need to check the comet reports, it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those. But the ones I have seen have been pretty nice. The most spectacular was Comet Hyakutake, which spread across a third of the sky.
It always seems to be really overcast whenever something astronomically cool is happening (big thunderstorm last night), and now I live in an area with so much light pollution the moon is about all we can see. The best thing we’ve seen the last few years is when the northern lights were visible quite far south. We didn’t see the actual aurora, but one night the entire northern sky was glowing like someone had opened a huge stadium or something at the end of the road we lived on. Not bad for the southern coast of England.