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The Day That We Watched the Death of the Sun: My Thoughts on the Total Solar Eclipse

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Conn Coll chapter.

On April 8, 2024, I joined the ranks of people who drove hundreds of miles for an experience lasting less than two minutes. (Does that check off any boxes on the rice purity test?) I’m referring, of course, to the total solar eclipse that was visible across the U.S., including in northern Vermont and New Hampshire. My family and I drove up to a random town in Vermont that we’d never heard of, and it was so crowded that it took us an hour to drive three blocks back onto the main road right after the eclipse ended. It was, of course, worth it.

Anyone who says solar eclipses are overhyped has definitely only seen a partial one. A partial eclipse, even if it reaches 95% coverage, is really nothing special — the sky just gets dimmer, an odd sensation that it’s still sunny but the brightness has been turned down. A total eclipse is like the cosmos splitting open. Dusk falls in all directions, the sky dark in the center and light around the edges, as the sun vanishes but doesn’t set. It’s suddenly so dark you can see Venus in the sky, and the clouds are dusky gray, tinged with the edges of bright color that mark the beginning of sunrise or the end of sunset. The dark side of the moon is a black circle in the sky. It’s encircled in a halo of bright white light. The brightness isn’t too intense to look at during totality, but the sheer blackness of the moon makes the contrast unbelievably vivid. Phone cameras can’t handle it, unless you adjust them so the brightness is turned all the way down. Nothing really captures it. You can absolutely understand how people throughout most of human history would’ve believed the world was ending.

This actually wasn’t my first total eclipse. I was fortunate enough to be able to see the 2017 eclipse as well (I was actually quite unfortunate, as I was living in the Midwest at the time and that was terrible, but this was some consolation). In 2017, we watched the eclipse from a McDonald’s parking lot. This year, we watched the eclipse from a field overlooking a little river that flows through a faded, shrinking industrial town. I know this year’s eclipse was visible from Niagara Falls, and I’d briefly entertained the idea of traveling there, but the truth is, you don’t need any kind of scenic location to watch an eclipse. If anything, the experience is enhanced by being in a mediocre, unremarkable place. Last year, I saw a TikTok trend where people were comparing their pictures of clear skies in scenic locations to stunning, blazing sunsets seen from parking lots. Eclipses are like that, only amplified. Just as the intense contrast of the white sun and black moon feels otherworldly, so does the juxtaposition of an unreal sky with a very mundane place on the earth.

Naturally, after watching the eclipse and experiencing those fleeting seconds of false night, I was on Wikipedia examining the list of upcoming solar eclipses in the twenty-first century. There will be one visible from Iceland and Spain in August 2026, which is a journey I’d be willing to make. Alaska will see one in March 2033 — probably not the most pleasant weather, but maybe you can catch the aurora borealis on the same trip while you’re at it. The next eclipse to be visible across a large swath of the continental U.S. will be in August 2045, stretching from northern California to Colorado down to Florida. I’ll be forty by then. If we’ve gone full Gilead by that point, my reproductive value will be on the decline, but hopefully I’ll still get to watch this cool cosmic event.

Aside from making me want to chase future eclipses, this celestial circumstance also inspired me to do something else: watch the rest of the Twilight saga. I recently rewatched the first movie, the only one I’ve ever seen, and it was even more amazingly terrible than I remembered. This is the skin of a killer, Bella. Normally, I would never watch the movies without reading the books first, but I don’t respect Twilight enough to do that. I just want to watch the sparkly vampire and the wolf boy fight over the spider monkey. A solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon, so it’s actually connected to multiple movies if you think about it.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to witness a total solar eclipse in your lifetime yet, I would highly recommend getting to one by any means necessary. It’s one of the few things we can reliably predict decades or even centuries into the future, so start making your plans now to get ahead!

Kate Bridges

Conn Coll '27

Hi, I'm Kate and I will ramble about obscure animal facts and Taylor Swift indefinitely