Transom stories: Chasing total solar eclipses from space

Aug 21, 2017

Monday afternoon people can step outside and watch the solar eclipse. From our view here in northern Michigan, only part of the sun will be blocked by the moon – 75 percent. Peak coverage happens at 2:20 p.m.

Elsewhere in the United States, the moon will completely block the sun and – for two minutes and 41 seconds – the sky will go dark. That's a total solar eclipse, and you can view it in locations along the path of the totality.

"Yes, totality," says Bob Moler. "[Those] very few minutes in the shadow of the moon [are] a very special time. Streetlights go on. Roosters crow ... It is a magical time."

This year, the path of the totality begins in Oregon and travels east across the U.S. to South Carolina.


Bob is a local amateur astronomer. He does a segment called "Ephemeris" every weekday morning on IPR. He got his first telescope before NASA was established, but he says he never wanted to go into space.

"We are in space," Bob says. "We’re on a spaceship called the Earth, orbiting the sun." 

Bob saw his first solar eclipse in 1963. And throughout his marriage, Bob and his wife Judy chased eclipses together. Like this time in 1970:

"We took off at midnight of the eclipse day, and drove all the way to North Carolina," Bob says. "Ended up in a cornfield outside of Bladenboro, North Carolina."

This solar eclipse will be Bob's fifth and his first since Judy died in 2014. He'll travel to Missouri to be in the path of totality, weather permitting. He says it's 10 miles off the path's center line. So he'll get eight seconds less than the maximum time in the totality.

Megan Nadolski is a multimedia storyteller for Marriott International and lives in Washington D.C. She came to Interlochen Center for the Arts in June for the Transom Traveling Workshop taught by Rob Rosenthal.