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Not all is lost during a clouded-out totality

Emily here with my eclipse recap! You might think it would be supremely disappointing to be clouded out for my first total solar eclipse, but here's why I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend traveling into the path of totality whenever you have the chance, despite the weather forecast!

For nearly seven years I had planned on spending the eclipse in Rochester, New York, where I grew up and where my parents still live. My sister and I had planned a road trip to the path of totality in August 2017, but we had to cancel when our dad was hospitalized and we went home to be with him and our mom. He's fine now (thank goodness!), and the partial eclipse was still fun, but our disappointment was assuaged knowing that the path of totality would pass through our hometown in 2024.

Emily viewing the partial eclipse through eclipse glasses on August 21, 2017

 Emily watching the partial eclipse with kiddo #1, aka Star Baby, on August 21, 2017 in Rochester, NY

Leading up to April 8, I crammed as much public outreach into my schedule as I could, hyping up my students and the public for the 90% eclipse in NYC, which is pretty rare! But I had heard that even 99.9% eclipse is nothing like totality so I made plans to travel to Rochester, even giving myself a couple days' buffer on either side.

Never content to just enjoy myself, I got in touch* with the Rochester Museum & Science Center and the Seneca Park Zoo to contribute to some of their eclipse weekend events. It was hectic to coordinate these events as well as family time, but also oh so much fun to have my partner, kids, parents, sister, & nephews get to see first-hand what I do.

Emily in front of a large screen reading "Cosmology of Astronomy on Tap"
Emily presenting at Astronomy on Tap at RMSC. Photo courtesy Sara Rosborough.
Emily standing in front of two news cameras, wearing a sunspot dress from STARtorialist
Emily being interviewed by local news channels, wearing the DKIST Solar Maximum dress.


The day before the eclipse was perfectly clear and sunny. That night I could see so many more stars from my parents' backyard than I was used to in NYC! Even the morning was clear and bright, but around noon the clouds started to roll in, and they stayed. My family ended up visiting my aunt in Wayne County for totality, and despite the clouds it was a thrilling experience. It got gradually darker and cooler, like dusk, and I watched the time using astronomer Hanno Rein's iPhone app so I could count down the seconds to totality. Even after the long partial phase, the sudden darkness was eerie, and the orange glow around the entire horizon was striking. The return of brightness seemed even sudden more after totality because our eyes had become adapted to the dark. We saw flocks of geese flying overhead during totality and heard nearby roosters crowing as the sky brightened.

As a bit of a consolation prize, my family enjoyed a delicious dinner at a Mexican restaurant fittingly named Coronas. Maddeningly though, the clouds cleared around sunset and the night sky was crystal clear, just like it was the night before! Those thick, low clouds seemed to perfectly bookend totality just around Rochester.

All in all, I wouldn't have changed my first total solar eclipse experience in any way. But now I am even more determined to see totality for myself sometime soon - either Spain 2026 or Egypt 2027, or why not both? Who's with me?!?


CEO, STARtorialist, Inc.

Emily posing under a starry balloon arch at the entrance to the Rochester Museum and Science Center after an Astronomy on Tap event there
Emily celebrating a successful Astronomy on Tap event at RMSC before the total solar eclipse. How wants to join her for events in Egypt in 2027????


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*Actually slid into DMs, thank you to responsive social media managers!

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