A Total Eclipse of the Sun — April 8, 2024

Since the next total eclipse visible in North America wouldn’t be happening until 2044, I definitely wanted to check off my photographing-a-total-eclipse bucket list item with the April 8, 2024 eclipse. Its path of totality included southern portions of Illinois and Indiana. But I did not want to join the thousands of my closest friends crowding cities like Terre Haute, Bloomington, or Indianapolis.

During the weeks prior to the eclipse, I set out to discover an out-of-the-way spot that was unlikely to attach big crowds. I found a promising county park just outside Sullivan, Indiana, about 35 miles south of Terre Haute. While not dead center on the path of totality, it still promised some 3 minutes, 30 seconds of eclipse darkness.

My daughter, Elisabeth, and I set out from her house in Naperville, IL on Sunday, April 7th. We stayed the night in Champaign, IL and then completed the 250 mile trip to Sullivan, Indiana early Monday morning. The county park at the edge of town had plenty of parking and a nice grassy area on which to set up my cameras. It was not crowded. The day was sunny and warm with a few high cirrus clouds that I hoped wouldn’t interfere with the show. At 1:41 pm EDT as the moon began crossing the sun. It took almost 1 1/2 hours to achieve totality right at 3:00 p.m. (And then another 1 1/2 hours for the moon to complete its journey across the sun.)

The sky was clear; big crowds never materialized, and when the moon fully blocked the sun the crowd cheered. The parking lot lights turned on in the semi-darkness and someone set off fireworks. Late in the afternoon, we headed back to Naperville using off-the-beaten-track county roads rather than sitting in traffic on the Interstate. It was a pleasant drive back north through the flatness that is central Illinois.

Totality was the fastest 3 1/2 minutes of my life. But what an experience! If you ever get the opportunity to experience a total eclipse of the sun, make the trip! I witnessed a partial eclipse in 2017 and another in 2021. They were fine, but not terribly awesome. But as someone has observed, partial eclipses are like lightning bugs. Totality is like lightning itself…


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