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Something Powerful Happened in the Sky over Casper, Wyoming on August 21 »
At exactly 11:42:44 a.m. Monday, August 21, more than 300 viewers at Mills Spring Ranch on top of Casper Mountain in Wyoming took off their protective glasses to look directly at the sun’s halo of light around the moon perfectly aligned over the sun. Temperatures had plummeted 11 degrees, leaving a distinct chill in the air, and darkness had descended. Whoops of amazement could be heard from the astonished crowd.
The first total eclipse in the United States since 1979, this one was also the first to cross such a wide swath of the country for almost a century.
One of the “luckiest cities”--those in the path of totality--Casper, Wyoming was the third city to see the total eclipse that swept across the United States on a path from Madras, Oregon to Columbia, South Carolina, with cities like Lincoln, Nebraska, Jefferson City, Missouri and Nashville, Tennessee in between.
Among those gathered at Mills Spring Ranch, one of RMC's two camps, were astronomers Mike Benabe and Steve Aiken, friends from California and Colorado respectively. They set up a reflective astronomical telescope in the open area at the center of camp the evening preceding Eclipse 2017 to view the night sky.
Cloudy at first with spits of rain, the gathering group held a community prayer for clear skies. The prayer was quickly answered and Mike worked at aligning his telescope--a retirement gift from his wife--to Earth using its two-axis motors. Its built-in GPS system helped the instrument recognize its exact spot on Earth, including elevation.
The gathered crowd was treated not only to an education on aligning a telescope, but to a view of Saturn with its rings and five of its moons along with the Andromeda galaxy ring nebula.
Used to hosting a few family members instead of a large crowd, Mike, nevertheless rose to the occasion and enjoyed sharing his knowledge and passion with interested people. “We had an awesome, magical time,” he said.
After the crowd dispersed, Mike and Steve carried the telescope to the meadow away from the lights of camp to view the Milky Way in which our Solar System and Earth reside.
It was there in the meadow that astro-photographer Glenn Sackett captured a stunning vision of the night sky as seen through his camera lens on the eve of the total eclipse.
In attendance for the eclipse were students from Mile High Academy and Springs Adventist Academy who congregated in the cafeteria the morning of the anticipated celestial event to hear Greg Pauls, an electrical engineer, explain the anatomy of a solar eclipse and to learn other interesting facts about eclipses.
Nancy Arias, principal/teacher for Cheyenne Mason Christian School made it a field trip for her ten students who all stayed in a bunkhouse. Fifth grader, Kynsi said she watched a “play-by-play video” of a solar eclipse, which her mother shared with her before her class trip to MSR and remarked that it was “really interesting.”
“This is my first eclipse,” said Aiden, a third grader at the Cheyenne School.
“There are crescent shapes under the tree,” someone shouted and people crowded around to observe and take photos. While astonishing things were going on in the sky, a natural phenomenon was occurring on the ground where tiny gaps between leaves acted as pinhole lenses and projected crescent-shaped images of the partially-eclipsed sun onto the ground.
“There’s Venus,” someone else observed and, sure enough, Venus shone brightly in the darkened sky.
After hearing that the eclipse gathering of more than 300 celestial gazers of different faiths almost doubled the attendance at the recent camp meeting, RMC communication director Rajmund Dabrowski commented, "So, it seems we need to work more at increasing camp meeting attendance. But the sky and its sun will always win," he predicted.
"The state park down the road from Mills Spring Ranch is charging $300 per night for a tent site," Franktown pastor Jamey Houghton wrote on his Facebook page, noting that MSR charged just $30 per tent site.
When totality ended, many began their journey home amid the 600,000 others who had also converged on the city of Casper, many of whom used the same I-25 corridor to travel home. The trip that usually takes three hours, took six and the trip that usually takes six hours took twelve. You get the picture.
Heading home, people from California, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia and states in-between were aware that something powerful had happened in the sky.
Only seven years hence, on April 8, 2024, the next total eclipse observable from the United States, will be seen in the skies from Texas to Maine.
[Carol Bolden; first and second photos by Mike Benabe; third by Sharise Oh Moreland; fourth by Madeline Logan-Davis