Solar eclipse leaves Bay Area in awe. And also disappointed.

Discouraged by gloom, thousands of Bay Area residents gathered in parties on early Saturday morning to gaze up at overcast skies.

Then two honorary guests made a brief surprise appearance: the sun, and the moon.

From San Jose to Danville and San Rafael, cheers erupted when skies brightened, then dimmed, as the moon crept across the surface of the sun, shrinking it to a mere crescent.

“I see it!” shouted children at a festive Palo Alto event sponsored by Stanford’s Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, holding protective glasses to their faces.

Lesley and Lyric Dawson, left and center, and Iyanis Ludwig use their special glasses to view the eclipse during a viewing event, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, at Stanford University. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

Then the glorious view vanished.

For the most of the “annular eclipse,” the weather was a tease, cooperating only intermittently along much of its Bay Area path. The clouds opened up to allow a quick peak, then closed again.

San Francisco was less lucky. “Some of my finest work,” bragged @KarlTheFog on Twitter.

“It was overcast, as usual. Trying to do any astronomy in San Francisco teaches you how to develop a zen attitude,” said Bing Quock of the Morrison Planetarium at California Academy of Sciences, which set up large plasma screen TVs on an outdoor patio for streamed viewings from NASA and other locales.

“You hope for the best, but you accept whatever happens,” he said.

The sun was also obscured in Lake Tahoe.

Outside the route of “totality,” we had been promised only a partial view, at best.

And it’s not a total eclipse, as in 2017. It’s called an annular solar eclipse because it creates a brilliant ring, or annulus, of sunlight.  That happens because the moon is too far away to entirely cover the solar disk.

To get to Stanford in time to manage a hydrogen telescope, Creighton Vonn, 14, of the San Jose Astronomy School Association awoke at 6 a.m.  The event also featured white-light solar telescopes, sun spotters and solar binoculars and educational stations that explained, solar physics, optics, and the solar system.

“It’s brilliant. The sun is a crescent, like the moon,” said Foothill College students Gabriela Grishashvili, who adjusted a white light telescope throughout the morning as our planet rotated on its orbit. “The earth’s not flat!” joked fellow student Marlo Baca.

Under cool skies, the chocolate “solar s’mores” didn’t melt.  But youngsters happily ate them anyway, then experimented with UV-sensitive beads and built their own pinhole cameras.

Eugene, one of the the first cities on the narrow swath of “totality,” was cloudy. So was Ukiah. Instead of sun-gazing,  crowds celebrated Pumpkinfest with sweet potato pies and local Low Gap Bourbon.

The weather was more cooperative along much of the rest of the eclipse’s direct path to Texas.

In the high desert outside the tiny Modoc County town of Cedarville, on the edge of the Warner Mountains just eight miles from the Nevada border, former Marin Country resident Michael Sykes basked in the glory of the sight.

Relaxing in a chair in the middle of the sagebrush, “I couldn’t have asked her a more beautiful experience,” he said. “The clouds moved really fast and made it that much more interesting.”

Leaving the U.S., the eclipse crossed the Gulf of Mexico into Central America, where skies were clear.

Along the crowded beaches of Costa Rica’s south Caribbean, under the direct path of the eclipse, former Mercury News editor Karl Kahler said “at first you could see the moon putting a little dent in the upper right side of the sun. Soon it looked like a crescent moon. By 12:03 p.m., the coverage was almost total, with just the ‘ring of fire’ visible around the moon.”

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