The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association sponsored this event hosted by the Ohio Turnpike Astronomer's Association, many members of the C.A.A. made the trip to centerline. Wauseon was blessed with the longest duration of annularity for this event at 6 minutes 13.5 seconds. Because we lived so close to maximum duration, many members of the OTAA clubs wanted to make the effort to travel-a three hour trip for those of us in Cuyahoga County. Through the hard work by Carl Peck of the C.A.A., the Turnpike Association was able to work out an observing site at Wauseon's Burr Road Junior High School.
The observing site was setup for private viewing by OTAA members, but we were joined by various and sundry others who found our site through other inquiries. We had local people from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana while others came from Florida, New Mexico, Georgia and California. We were surrounded by the press, which was a surprise to me, but later I found that most of the news people had cleared it with the principal of the school. The interest in our telescopes and the methods we used to view the eclipse was quite high. Most of us were interviewed repeatedly-and had the opportunity to share the wonders of our hobby with others. In all, some 50 amateur astronomers and at least 200 others were treated to one of the clearest days we've seen this Spring in Ohio.
We were buzzed by a helicopter shortly after the eclipse commenced. Much to our surprise the 'copter landed and two reporters from a Columbus, Ohio, TV station came to join us in the field. By noon, a large mobile unit sporting a tall antenna was parked and waiting. In addition, a rock radio station and several other TV crews visited our site. The University of Toledo supplied a satellite link in a special truck. In addition, the University taped a panel discussion of experts who discussed the eclipse from a mobile tv studio. At 9 PM I was told by an astronomer from the University that I would be on world-wide television. I was especially excited because I had helped to arrange for John Stealy from JPL to tape a live version of his show, The Night Sky. The satellite link was supposed to come from JPL, but it had to be sent though Goddard instead. With the help of Marty Mayer and others from NASA Lewis Research Center, the program was a success! Marty had the honor of keeping the sun centered for the television broadcast and I was interviewed for about 10 minutes, as an amateur astronomer & event coordinator. During that time, I gave a complete description of the appearance of the Sun and the Moon through my telescope. (That was for TV viewers with nothing but the TV image of the eclipse to eat their hearts out.)
So what did we see? I was using my 6-inch f/9.6 telescope with a glass solar filter, stopped down to about a 2-inch aperture. First contact came at 1:08 EDT. The solar disk was bland at first, although one lone spot was near the center of the disk. (With higher magnification it appeared as a group of spots, not a loner.) As the day progressed a flare appeared at the opposite edge (away from the Moon) of the solar disk. The flare appeared whitish against the orangish surface. (The colors of the sun were seen through a glass filter.) This white region seemed to be quite active. As the Moon progressed across the disk of the Sun, another area of activity above the flare became visible. A small dark spot was associated with this second white area. Because I was using a Newtonian telescope, the area was actually below the flare area. The disk of the Moon showed the dark profile of craters and mountains.
I got excited when the Moon passed that little spot in the middle. We were all interviewed and interviewed again as reporters with large cameras and their colleagues with large microphones walked through the crowd of astronomers and their families. Some people saw the Bailey's Beads at the start of annularity, but I was vying with my family for a turn at the eyepiece. When annularity occurred those lunar features, the mountains, crater rims and valleys, left a craggy edge, especially along the top (bottom) of the Moon. The sky became darker, but not really dark, I would compare it to a bright, sunny day when a thick cloud passes the Sun, others said it was like early twilight. Some birds seemed to be flying home to their nests. We saw Venus clearly, although I tried I did not see Jupiter or any other planet. When the Moon crept over to the opposite edge of the Sun, I had no intention of missing the Bailey's Beads on the way out. I saw them because I refused to leave the eyepiece. After annularity the crowd thinned, until the very last edge of the Moon was no longer visible.
For me, the mose wonderful aspect of this event saw seeing so many of the amateur astronomers I have known through the years coming together in the middle of Ohio farmland on a Tuesday afternoon. I enjoyed comparing notes with each and every one of my old astronomical friends. The moments of annularity were quite exhilirating to me. So many years I have heard that eclipses affected the ancient people of Earth profoundly, but not until traveling to Baja in 1991 and witnessing my first true total eclipse, did I realize how moving this event must have been to people who were only beginning to unravel the mysteries of the Earth, solar system and universe.
Once again, I was surprised at how excited the eclipse made me feel. That ring of fire in the sky was so impressive, it took my breath away. I found myself wanting to stare through the telescope, especially because of the detail of the limb of the Moon and those flares which were easier to see as the Moon blocked off more of the Sun's blinding surface.
The MAY 10th eclipse will long be remembered by amateur astronomers of the Ohio Turnpike Association, not only because of witnessing a rare astronomical event, but because of the friends who shared the view, as all across the Turnpike, Ohio amateurs shared their experience with friends and family.
Article written by Dawn Jenkins, editor of the Asteroid Belt, Spring 1994 issue
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