Shooting the moon: Annular eclipse brings out hordes of photographers in Lake Charles, Texas
Published 6:17 am Sunday, November 12, 2023
By Mary Richardson
A shift in the universe took place on October 14, but you might not have noticed. There was a little darkening of the sun, like a little cloud passing by. There was an unexplained breeze — no big deal. The weird crescent-shaped shadows dancing all over… well, had you paid attention to them, they might have been harder to explain.
In fact, an annular eclipse of the sun was taking place. To see it, people needed to wear special eclipse glasses, and with the glasses, the event was spectacular. Without the glasses, it was just another day.
Email newsletter signup
During an annular eclipse, the moon passes directly between the earth and sun. It is called a “ring of fire” eclipse, because the moon’s shadow does not quite cover the sun. It leaves a bright ring around the darkened circle where the sun is covered.
This eclipse wasn’t visible globally. In the United States, it started in Oregon and swept through seven states before arriving in Texas, which is where my husband, Joe, and I were waiting to see it. Our search for the best place had begun a year ago. The website www.space.com stated a prime location would be the Texas Hill Country. However, we found that hotels and Airbnbs there were well aware of their good fortune. Prices had tripled! They expected a horde.
We joined that horde of eclipse-crazed tourists. A woman coming from the Austin airport said she had never seen so many people carting expensive telescopes. The tourist bureau in Fredericksburg was busy giving out free eclipse-certified glasses. “Dark as coal” doesn’t begin to describe the blackness of these glasses!
The next morning, the day of the eclipse, Joe set up his telescope in a field. I brought out a lawn chair and leaned back to watch the sky. At 10:22 a.m. it started. Through the glasses, I could see a bright ball with a bite taken out of the top right. At 11:54 a.m. I saw the amazing ring of fire. By 1:30 p.m. it was over, and the shadow exited the sun via the bottom left.
Meanwhile, back in Lake Charles, people were also watching the eclipse. Lake Charles wasn’t in the direct path, so only about 80 percent of the sun was covered. Still, according to Chad Moreno, owner of Killerwebsites.com, it was pretty wonderful. He set up on his balcony, taking a picture about every minute as the moon journeyed across most of the sun (See photos on this page).
The eclipse was just as popular in Lake Charles as in Texas. Facebook was full of pictures of people wearing the eclipse glasses and staring raptly into space. Other people took pictures of the weird shadows. During an eclipse, the leaves of trees act as tiny pinhole cameras and focus the light into crescent shaped patches on whatever is below: the ground, cars, dogs. It was just fun to look at.
For serious photographers, this eclipse was a trial run for an even more rare event coming up in 2024. Dubbed “The Great North American Eclipse,” a total eclipse of the sun will occur on April 8.
This eclipse will be obvious to everyone in its path because the moon’s shadow will entirely block the light of the sun. Rumor has it that a total eclipse will cause birds to stop singing and go to roost. Crickets will turn to night songs, turtles will hide, and mosquitoes will come out and bite you. But, for sure, this time it will get dark. In fact, during totality, stars will be visible, as will the planets Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter.
For the total eclipse, Moreno plans on leaving Lake Charles for Texas. He will set up his camera right in the direct path. It will be a full half century until another total eclipse takes place in either Texas or Louisiana. “So I’m not missing this one,” he said.