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A local astronomer’s view of the total solar eclipse

Spectators view the total solar eclipse in Noblesville, Indiana, on April 8, 2024.
Jenna Schweikert
The Knox Student
Spectators view the total solar eclipse in Noblesville, Indiana, on April 8, 2024.

Spectators in the path of totality could see the sun's corona, Jupiter and Venus, shadow snakes, and the diamond ring effect.

Millions of people across the country watched last week’s total solar eclipse. One of them was Nathalie Haurberg, an associate professor of physics at Knox College.

Haurberg had been anticipating this total solar eclipse since the last one in 2017. For that one, she drove to Carbondale to view totality, but a rogue cloud tarnished the experience.

“After missing totality I was like, alright, I’m definitely driving to totality the next time because I missed the cool part,” she said.

Haurberg traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, and her graduate school alma mater the University of Indiana to witness totality.

She said everything was very “eclipse-y," with events, speakers, and restaurant specials all about the eclipse.

Haurberg set up to watch the eclipse right before it started, because she wanted to see the moment of first contact.

“After about half an hour you started to notice it was actually getting darker, and started cooling off a bit,” she said.

It took about an hour for the moon to fully eclipse the sun. Haurberg said spectators were excited, with people playing music like Pink Floyd. But right before totality is when things started getting really interesting.

“Everyone’s watching and people are getting really excited and going oooh it’s so cool, and the crickets start making noise, and the birds are making warning calls,” she said.

Once the moon fully blocked the sun, viewers could see the sun’s outer layer, called the corona. Normally, the rest of the sun is too bright for the corona to be witnessed or studied.

“You teach about the corona, you learn about the corona, but that’s the only time I’ve ever seen the corona with my eyes. Just looked up with my eyeballs and looked at the corona of the sun,” said Haurberg.

During totality spectators could also see Jupiter and Venus, as well as some solar flares. Many people also witnessed the diamond ring effect.

“When there is light that’s channeled through hills and valleys between mountains on the moon, you get this bright spot that looks like there’s kind of a diamond ring shining on one little spot on the moon,” Haurberg explains.

‘Shadow snakes’ were also seen as the sun started coming out of the shadow. These are caused by a type of refraction as the sun moves out of the shadow.

The next total solar eclipse viewable from the United States will be in 2044, but people in the Midwest will not see it.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Eleanor Lindenmayer is a journalism major at Knox College.