Skip to content ↓
MIT staff blogger Chris Peterson SM '13

total eclipse of the cruft by Chris Peterson SM '13

this post is a little delayed, for which I plead CPW

Like millions of others, I traveled to northern New England to see the total solar eclipse on April 8th. I had happened to see the total eclipse in 2017 in Idaho during an emergency burnout vacation when I drove ~2,300 miles around the mountain west, and it was an incredible experience, so I knew I had to see it again, and bring my family this time.

the author of the blog post wearing a windbreaker and eclipse glasses looking into the sky

what if we gathered in vermont and stared directly at the sun…ha ha jk…unless?

I know some current bloggers went, too, and will be posting their experiences soon. But a number of alum bloggers did too, so I asked if I could collect their old-timey tales. To be honest, the experience isn’t describable, and I didn’t even attempt to take pictures. But some of our cruft are better at words and cameras than me, so here are some of those who responded to me.

Michael C ’16

Here in Dallas, the cloud forecast was looking gloomy all month and up to the morning of April 8. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time staring at the blue and gray contours of satellite weather imagery and learning the difference between GFS, ECMWF, and NAM.

But like magic, 8 minutes before totality the clouds totally dissipated and we had perfect views of the eclipse. In these images you can see ruby-colored solar prominences, planet-sized loops of plasma hanging off the sun. You can also see Bailey’s Beads right on the edge of the eclipse, caused by rugged craters on the moon’s surface. Truly a magical experience that you have to see in person.

(Minor digression: through a stroke of luck, my car rental reservation for a sedan was upgraded to an enormous fuel-guzzling pickup truck. As a Californian who normally drives a pragmatic efficient EV I’ve now been radicalized to being a Truck Guy, much to the chagrin of my wife Steph C ’15).

Caroline M. ’18 

Had lots of clouds, but got to see it last min!! My coworker made it into album art and it gives *Halloween*

Laura N. ’09

These days I am a high school science teacher. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to travel to the path of totality and I didn’t take any pictures, but I did collect temperature and cloud data for NASA with the Globe Observer citizen science project. This graph shows the temperature change experienced at my location, which saw about 93% coverage. I’ll be using this in my classes in a few weeks to introduce radiation heat transfer to my physics students!

a figure for the boston globe demonstrating temperature drops

Lydia K. ’14, MEng ’16

My partner Cory ’13 and his high school friend Robert and I roadtripped to Bangor, Maine, to see totality in Millinocket, Maine. In total we drove (well, Robert drove; I worked in the back of the car and Cory played Mario and Rabbids) 12 hours, including four there, four back, and four in traffic from Millinocket back to Bangor. We hiked in the snow during the eclipse leading up to totality, squinting up at the sun getting eaten by the moon like a cookie through eclipse glasses and the Celestron 12x50mm solar binoculars I’d bought for the occasion (one of the very last two from Walmart online, the other of which went to my dad for his birthday). Robert and Cory had rescued a guy whose car got stuck in the snow-mud, and he and his dog Radar hiked with us until they got to their eclipse-watching spot. When we got back to the car, another guy’s car was stuck in the snow-mud, but he was embarrassed and didn’t want help. We watched the rest of the lead-up from the car, and then, when it started getting dark, from outside. It got dark, and grey, but not like at sunset, and sharp shadows came out, not at all like the soft shadows at sunset. It got cold. I put on my sweater (it had been t-shirt weather all day) and then my jacket over it. We could see planets shining in the sky. Everyone was quiet; even the sound of traffic was gone. Dogs barked. The actual event was extraordinary. It was like everyone here describes it, and it looked just like the photos in this blog post. It was worth the drive.

frozen maine lake

CJ Q. ’23

i wrote a blog post about it: