Yerkes Observatory, built in 1895, is a historic astronomy research institution near the north shore of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, owned by the University of Chicago. In early summer 2018, My sister Patty told me Yerkes Observatory was ending its public tours in October. In late June, I drove up there to take a look around, and to get some photos of Yerkes. Patty and Paul recently bought a cottage near the north shore, east of Yerkes, across Williams Bay. My grandfather originally had rented a cottage for his kids in Williams Bay many years ago. Eventually he purchased one near the south shore when his kids had families. Each family would spend about 3 weeks there during the summer. My parents later owned homes there, and eventually Patty would as well. Our earliest memories of Yerkes were viewing it across the lake from the south shore. Above the trees, you could clearly see the 3 observatories: the large one at the west end and the two smaller ones east. Lately, the smaller ones have become harder to see as the trees have matured further and begun to obscure their view from the lake. My parents took us on the Yerkes tour when we were young and we observed the interior of the majestic structure we previously only viewed on the horizon above the shoreline. We are hoping that Yerkes’ historic significance is appreciated and the institution is respected and endures.
Earlier this summer when I first heard about the Great 2017 American Eclipse, Carbondale, IL was its ground zero, as it would spend the longest duration in Totality, or total eclipse. My family considered renting an RV and spending a long weekend downstate to experience it, but for a number of reasons, it wasn’t going to be possible. I wound up spending that weekend visiting my daughter Natalia in Austin, Texas. After a nice stay with her, I boarded flight 1258 on Frontier Airlines Monday morning, August 21, around 11. As I entered the aircraft, I asked the stewardess who was greeting passengers if the flight would cross the eclipse. Her response was basically “Oh, gee, I guess it might.” I asked her if the pilot could give us advance notice on the intercom just prior. She said she would relay my request to the pilot. I found seat 19B, and settled in a few rows behind a guy already asleep with his head leaning against his shuttered window.
I don’t think the stewardess request was necessary, because as soon as the door was closed, the pilot made an announcement telling us they would increase airspeed some, and deviate slightly from the normal route so the flight would intersect the Totality zone approaching the Illinois border just west of Carbondale. We would be experiencing the full effect of the eclipse a little after 1. Amazing luck! I ordered a drink, deleted some stuff on my phone, and made sure I had plenty of memory for photos. Around 12:30, I began watching the sky thru the window. We were above light cloud cover. Around 12:45, I noticed the faintest dimming of light. It was as if clouds were slowly starting to obstruct the sun, but the clouds were miles below us. By 12:55, it was very noticeable. The deep blue sky around us was turning grey-blue. By 1, it had the appearance of late twilight. At 1:05, it was total eclipse. Dark as night, Totality lasted around 2 minutes. As gently and eerily as we entered the Great 2017 American Eclipse, we left it. By 1:20, this event of a lifetime was over. Three rows in front of me, the guy remained asleep, oblivious to wonder.