A Ring Around the Moon - an Eclipse Proposal Story
February 13, 2017
By Lance Lucero, Product Manager at Celestron
On May 9, 1994, my girlfriend Raquel and I headed out to the Ontario Airport in California to catch a flight to El Paso, Texas. As far as Raquel was concerned, we were flying to El Paso to witness our first annular eclipse of the sun that would take place the next morning, but I had something even more special in mind for this trip. At the airport, my telescope and camera case got a lot of attention from security, which made me nervous because I had something hidden under the foam beneath one of my glass solar filters that I didn’t want anyone to know about just yet. Luckily, they let me through without revealing my secret.
I was getting worried on the flight because the weather in California had been clear and sunny, but there were some really bad thunderstorms covering most of Arizona and New Mexico. The latest reports said this storm system was heading east toward the El Paso area, and we hoped it would be delayed long enough to allow us to see the show.
Arriving in El Paso, we checked into our hotel and then drove around town to find the perfect spot to observe the eclipse. After checking out a few spots, we finally settled on Nations Tobin Center, a park about 10 miles north of El Paso, before returning to the hotel for a good night sleep. I was so worried about the weather and the effects it would have on my plans for the next day that I could hardly sleep at all.
As dawn broke the next morning, there was not a cloud to be seen. We headed out for our spot, setup our equipment around 8:30 AM and settled down to wait for first contact. Being a weekday morning, the park was empty except for the few groundskeepers that were mowing the grass and trimming the hedges. When they realized what we were doing, they came over to ask if they could have a look. I was shocked to find out from them that the local radio and TV stations had been warning people to stay indoors and not look at the eclipse, rather than explaining how to make a simple pinhole projector using a piece of cardboard and a pin. We all stood and watched the eclipse unfold.
As the eclipse progressed, I would take numerous photographs at set time intervals. I would shout out the time and exposure settings and Raquel would record them in our notebook. As the moon began blotting out more and more of the sun, the excitement began to build. Around 10:07 we reached second contact and the sun enclosed the moon in brilliant fiery ring. For the next 2 minutes and 50 seconds, we watched as the moon approached the center of the sun’s disk making a perfectly symmetrical ring. Even though the moon was blocking about 90% of the suns disk at mid-eclipse, I was amazed at how bright the sky still was. In the apparent blink of an eye, third contact arrived and blazing ring was broken. We continued to watch the moon slowly recede from the face of the sun.
It was a truly awe inspiring experience for both of us, but for me it was only the beginning. With only about half an hour of the last partial phase of the eclipse left to go, the moment I had been waiting for had finally arrived. My heart began to pound in my chest as I reached into my telescope case and from a hidden compartment pulled out the main reason for my trip to El Paso. I asked Raquel, “So what did you think of that ring in the sky that we just saw?” “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”, she replied. I turned to face her, got down on one knee and said “I hope it doesn’t pale this in comparison” as I held out the engagement ring. “Will you marry me?” I asked. She was so stunned, she never actually said yes.
After sharing some hugs and being congratulated by our newfound friends, I immediately returned to the camera and started calling out the time and exposure settings again before I realized that Raquel was no longer interested in taking data anymore. She had run to the payphone about 20 feet away and was calling her friends to announce the news.
We packed up our equipment and headed straight back to the airport. As we got to the terminal, the sky turned cloudy and by the time we left the runway, the rain had started. The trip could not have ended better.
Twelve years later, in March of 2006, Raquel and I took a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Turkey to see our first total eclipse of the sun.
We had another event to celebrate as Raquel was 4 months pregnant with my daughter. She is now 10 years old and has already experienced her first annularity in Reno, Nevada on March, 29, 2012.
Now she’s looking forward to experiencing totality once again in Central Oregon on August 21, 2017.
I guess you could say that my family’s future looks sunny!