August 31, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse - August 21, 2017 (Teton, ID)

Our family had the opportunity to experience one of those "once in a lifetime" opportunities this weekend. We had a total solar eclipse right here in the United States! We thought it would be amazing if we took our kids and headed up to Idaho to see the sun completely disappear for 2 minutes during this eclipse.  We figured that this kind of opportunity was worth skipping school for since this eclipse was on Monday, August 21, 2017.

With this in mind we contacted our friends, the Koyles, in Teton, ID.  They were more than willing to let us come up to visit them for the eclipse. Since they already had family coming into town who also wanted to see the eclipse, we got to have the camper in their driveway. This was perfect as it allowed us to contain our family rowdiness and somewhat unruly manners around the sleeping hours. 

The predictions on the news said that this part of Idaho was expecting upwards of 500,000 visitors which was going to lead to horrendous traffic in and out of the Idaho Falls/Rexburg area. With traffic as a concern we needed to figure travel plans. The other obstacle to our travels was the Troop 51 campout and Court of Honor over the weekend (Friday, August 18 - Saturday, August 19). We decided to go to the campout, return home and then leave for Idaho. As a result, we started on our nighttime journey just after 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. Our hope was that we would miss the traffic by traveling at night. 

Our plan was a success and we made it to the Koyle's home just about 1:00 a.m.  We slipped into the trailer for a short night's rest. 

Sunday was nice and relaxing with a late breakfast at 9:00 a.m. and church at 11:00 a.m. We made it to church on time and were on the second to last row of the overflow seating. Apparently, the ward numbers had nearly doubled with the new visitors in town. After church, the boys made use of the time to play games with all of the youth who had converged at the Koyle's home.

Monday was the day! We had a nice, slow morning with breakfast and good conversation.  Around 11:00 a.m. we started final preparations for the solar eclipse. First we had to open our solar eclipse glasses that arrived on Saturday, before we left for Idaho. They came in a big plastic bubble and Michael was so excited to pop it. We thought it would be a epic expolsion so we gathered everyone together. Instead, it was an anticlimactic hiss but at least everyone was there to get their pair of solar eclipse glasses. With glasses in hand everyone went out to assume the solar eclipse viewing position.

The next part was exciting but not really action-packed. Through the solar eclipse glass we could see the moon slowly covering the sun. I was struggling to take a picture of the eclipse but our friend, Sophie Choate, helped me adjust my camera settings (with a make-shift filter) so that I could get some good pictures of the eclipse.

While the eclipse progressed, the youngsters brought their card game out and continued to play, glancing up between each hand to see how much the eclipse had progressed. During this phase of the eclipse there were only minor details that were noticeable unless you were looking directly at the sun (with your eclipse glasses on).

As the eclipse progressed the temperature began to drop noticeably. It was quite warm (in the 90's F) but as the eclipse progressed it felt like the temperature dropped into the 70's or even lower. The light was even less obvious until the minutes just prior to totality. You could still see everything and there was still bright light and definite shadows.

Phase 10 card game

Jared Koyle

Michael Jones

Koyle (cousin)

Donovan Jones

Annie Grace Choate

Jaime Koyle

Sophie Choate

Jayna Koyle

Another Koyle (cousin)

Jefferson Koyle

Aleky Jones

Group Action Photo

Sophie Choate

Tova Choate

Michelle Jones & Jatana S.

Hyrum S.

Tova & Sophie Choate


As we approached the 2 minutes of total solar eclipse we began to see some strange things. The shadows began to have some very weird phenomenon. We had fun looking at our hand shadows which showed all 5 fingers and some nubbies too! The leaves were displaying a bokeh effect showing the sun's shape from the eclipse instead of normal shadows! The light was definitely playing havoc with our eyes.

As we reached to moments of totality it was very eerie as the the light from the sun simply turned off, much like using a dimmer switch to regulate the sunlight. It was very bright and then it began to noticeably change to a nighttime lighting level, much like the light about 20 minutes after sunset. In fact, during the totality of the solar eclipse there was a sunset for 360 degrees! Every horizon was a sunset during the total solar eclipse. Now that was amazing! The Stars also started to come out and it got even colder. We could pick out Venus very well. 

Diamond Ring!
When the sun first starts to emerge from the (corona of the) solar eclipse there is the bright diamond look on top of the ring!

We had to pause long enough to get a group photo on this historic occasion. First looking at the solar eclipse. Then a regular pose for posterity.

And family photos to remember the occasion and to document that we were all there.

Here is a picture that shows the very strange shadows that we were seeing as the sun was still mostly in eclipse. The shadows (and sunlight) were bent like the shape of the visible sun.

After the total solar eclipse was over the party resumed and these kids finished playing their game. They didn't bother to look up as much to see the eclipse as it waned. After watching the eclipse waxing and the total solar eclipse the waning eclipse just wasn't nearly as dramatic.

This was such an amazing experience that we are already planning to catch the next total solar eclipse. The next solar eclipse is down in South America in 2018 and the next US total solar eclipse will be in April 8, 2024 and will range from Texas to Ohio. The next total solar eclipse to pass through Utah isn't until August 12, 2045. (see for more details)

Looks like we have a little vacation planning ahead of us! What an unbelieveable experience, seeing this total solar eclipse! It was total worth making the trip to Idaho and even fighting the traffic to get back home at 3:00 a.m. (with school and work on Tuesday!). The what should have been four hours to get home took 11 hours.