A total solar success


By Mitch Pence

Darke County Parks

A pale darkness begins to creep in on all sides and shadows become sharp and defined. As you look around, nothing seems too out of the ordinary. However, after peering at the sun through your solar filter, you notice the sun is but a sliver of light, a crescent resembling that of a waning moon. Where once there were the sounds of songbirds, now only silence greets your ears. A spontaneous transition to night has begun at three in the afternoon. The nocturnal sounds of spring amphibians can be heard in the distance as stars begin to fade into view. It is almost time… the moon is about to completely cover the sun.

All that can be seen of the sun’s last light comes in the form of Baily’s beads, forming like a pearl necklace around the moon until the last point of light, the diamond ring, vanishes in a flash. What remains can only be described as a black hole in the sky with a white halo. The moon is so perfectly placed that only the corona of our sun is visible from where we are on Earth. Tinges of pinkish-red can be seen around the halo. These prominences, large loops of ionized gas and plasma formed by the sun’s magnetic field, can now be seen with the naked eye. A stillness falls as everyone tries to understand the awesome sight that is a total solar eclipse.

The last time a total solar eclipse took place over the skies of Darke County, Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, called this place home. It was not yet called Darke County and Ohio had not yet become a state. After the signing of the treaty of Greene Ville in 1795, and after Ohio became a state in 1803, tensions with the Native Americans were beginning to grow once more. Tenskwatawa, also known as “The Prophet”, had set about hunting witches among the local tribes. Displeased by this, Harrison dared him to prove he was sent from God. Harrison challenged him to change the river’s course, raise the dead, or cause the sun to stand still, among other things. In response, The Prophet said that the “Master of Life” would send them a “black sun.” That summer, on June 16, 1806, the “black sun” indeed came in the form of a total solar eclipse. This solidified The Prophet’s place as a revered leader.

Last Monday, April 8th, all of Darke County, as well as many other cities and major metropolitan areas across the United States, witnessed this same astronomical, once-in-a-lifetime event that took place over our home. Darke County Parks in particular took this opportunity in stride by offering three separate locations for people to come together and witness the total solar eclipse. People amassed at Shawnee Prairie, Historic Bear’s Mill, and Prairie Ridge Meadow, some of them locals while others came from afar. Travelers from New York, California, Hawaii, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Washington DC, Florida, and many other places planned for years in advance to visit the sites within the Darke County Park District. New friends from Canada and Mexico and even parts of Europe called our communities home for the weekend in order to set up their telescopes and enjoy the celestial event.

The duration of totality for the eclipse over Darke County on April 8th was 3 minutes and 56 seconds. However, the next eclipse over Ohio will have an even longer duration! On September 14, 2099, another total solar eclipse will pass over Greenville and will have a maximum duration of 5 minutes and 18 seconds! If you are as excited as we are and are already preparing for this

eclipse, Darke County Parks will have glasses ready for you to pick up in approximately 19,403 business days.

All of us at the Darke County Parks want to thank everyone who came to watch the solar eclipse with us at any of the three viewing party locations. It was great to meet those who traveled as well as those we serve every day before sharing this once-in-a-lifetime event together. We hope the total solar eclipse exceeded everyone’s expectations and that you enjoyed your time under the Darke Side of the Moon.

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