top of page

We reached Totality. The Lone Star Eclipse from Dallas, Texas:


The Lone Star Eclipse (The Miracle) - April 8th 2024:

It seems too long since I did a blog post!! There has been so much going on in the astronomy world and having to keep a few things under wraps, it has taken until now to catchup on what happened exactly on the build-up to one of humanity's most witnessed astronomical events. The Total Solar Eclipse of April 8th:


All I can say is, what a build-up! It was earlier this year that I made the decision to travel to Dallas, Texas - in an attempt to witness the Total Solar Eclipse. I have to say, out of all celestial events, Eclipses are my favourite. The moment where you really do begin to see the celestial mechanics of our Solar System in action.


This year took me on a jouney back when I was two-years old. Having a cuppa with one of my family members; I had a sudden flashback to what I seem to remember being one of my earliest memories. The Solar Eclipse of 1999. Family members telling me stories that my account of that event was feasting on Malteasers whilst watching the event!! We have a photograph of how the eclipse looked from The Mendips; and looking at the photograph brought it all in to focus. It was a decent coverage from Somerset of around the 80-90% margin and I just remember the eerie effect of the sunlight hitting the clouds. So the build-up to April 8th saw my early routes in becoming an Astrophotographer, because of the 1999 Eclipse!


I have been lucky enough to witness over 5 Partial Solar Eclipses and one Total Solar Eclipse. Back in 2017, with thanks to some of my family members; they happened to be living on the 'path of totality' that sweeped from West to East coast of the United States. Only to find it would do so again - across the US; 7-years later. The account of witnessing Totality to my best description the closest you can get to Armageddon. It really does feel like the end of the world. Its funny because as an astornomer, you reassure yourself in those moments; of the science that is about to unfold. But, it does make you think for a moment, this is potentially how ancient civilisations felt when one of these events would occur. Quite an amazing thought being transported back in time and unlocking our primitive emotions to celstial wonders.


The Great American Eclipse of August 21st | Nashville, Tennessee:

Right, so back to April 8th - if we got this one, I would have been under the Moon's shadow for a total of a whole 5-minutes; my second Total Solar Eclipse. A lot of lessons were learned from 2017. Camera equipment, planning, set up. It was all riding on this one moment. To be honest though, I did think to myself in January - am I sure I want to go? You listen to the news reports, the statistics; it all seemed rather daunting to think of the numbers. Over 32-million people being able to witness the event. The most watched eclipse in humanity. The potential for flight delays with so many flights, the fear of food shortages, a state of emergency and blood supplies?!? (because of traffic congestion). Sweeping across from Mazatlan in Mexico, across Eastern US and then up through to Maine in Canada. A lot of pressure was riding on this one and just the cost overall to get over to the US at this point was quite frankly, Astronomical.


April 8th 2023 | Cloud Coverage along the path:

I have always said that I would like to try and witness as many eclipses as possible. So I gave it a go. Like many others, I fell for the trap of historic weather data to make my decision on where to go. It was quite amazing to see the lengths that american astornomers had gone to; sourcing satellite imagery from as far back as 1979 to see what weather patterns may be doing on the big day and to get a trend. However, it was all rather hit and miss; one year changing to the next. Also considering that around the time of the eclipse; it is the stormy season in April for much of the US; either way I took my chances.


The weather update on April 8th for Dallas. Doesn't look promosing especially with the low clouds from 9-11am CST:

I will never forget the build-up and anticipation with the weather forecasts. Waiting for the first weather predicitions and... it wasn't looking good. With most major news channels suggesting that most of the path; except parts of Canada would have clear skies. Some suggesting Texas to be the wost state to travel to!! Regardless, on the build-up to the big day, things were changing and as a lesson learned for me and other enthusists to look back to. On the day of the eclipse, the weather report changed from 'Many' clouds on April 7th for Dallas to 'Few' on April 8th. It doesn't matter how many times you look at those forecasts. They cannot predict with 100% clarity where the clear skies would be. Also, the weather was dramatised; high clouds are not thick clouds. Indiciations and graphics on the maps were overemphasised for what they should have been; a part of me thinking would this information not be revealed to nearer the time over fears of population density in those areas on April 8th.




In the weeks building up to this celestial wonder, I had the honour of being interviewed by BBC's The One Show, which did an amazing short film highlighting coverage the April 8th Total Solar Eclipse. I had the privilege to speak alongside Dame Dr. Maggie-Aderin Pocock and it was so lovely to catchup with her after all these years. We spoke about what to do if this is your first eclipse, how to protect your eyes and what to do if you would like to capture your own images of the event. Also being featured alongside BBC Cameraman, Eugene Campbell who captured the live images of the Total Solar Eclipse of 1999. This aired whilst I was over in Dallas and again, I will not forget how busy my phone was in the moments after totality! TO be interviewed on BBC Radio and to listen to the build-up was an absaloute joy.


It was great to catchup with Maggie!!


The big day was approaching and we were ready to set off to Dallas. We got to the airport only to find a notification on my phone straight away, saying there was an update to one of our flights. It had been cancelled. We were catching a connection from our local airport to get to Dallas and it so turns out that the air-operator did nothing to support us. We had (what I will reiterate as) some of the most disgusting, ludicrous customer serice that I think we had experienced. From doing our own research, Dublin Airport was enountering a storm around this time and only on further inspection, their whole timetable of flights had been cancelled. It turns out later on, our flight from Dublin to Dallas was also cancelled. It was a good job we didnt go!!


There was no way we were making it to Dublin to catch our connection. The attendees did not make us aware of this and we were left waiting for 6-hours in the airport. There was information that a flight was going the same day from London Heathrow and by this point, we were determined to get there. Only to find the Customer Service Line was completely swamped; no-one answering and because of this, all the remaining spaces for the flight were taken. Only to find the next best option, would be for a taxi to take us to Manchester; to then fly to Dublin (even though the flights were cancelled?!), then to Chicago and then to Dallas. This was asking way too much and by this point, my emotions were running high. You think to yourself in these moments that you have left yourself and others down. Not that it was our fault, but it makes you think those weeks and months of researching and rehearsing for this event were all for nothing. Only to be hanging on a thread of hope as to whether we would make it to the US; let alone the eclipse.


We were told that all remaining flights on the build-up to April 8th from the UK were sold-out. By this time, the guilt inside of me grew and I remember saying to myself; that is it; we are not going. I didn't want to put me or other travel members in jeopardy and this all seemed too much for this eclipse. However, I must give a shout out to my Sister at this point. We got home; do what you normally do in times of despair; turn to food and mull. Researching herself, she miraculously found there were flights still going out from London Heathrow the next day; the day BEFORE the eclipse. I did not know what to believe; I had been lied to by the air-operator. We got straight on the phone and as if by magic, we were transferred on to this flight going out the following day directly from Heathrow to Dallas. With a large amount of compensation, we were going to Dallas. We had a breakthrough.


If anyone has ever been in this position, you will reaslise the amount of stress and pressure it puts you under. In one way, it took the 'fun' off the event, but when you get there, your journey can resume. I had never felt so emotional to think we were going to make it to our final destination. The rest of the trip was a breeze. I did wish to air my story as it is a constant reminder for anyone planning their trip that anything can change; it is how you respond in those moments, which counts. But also I would like to thank my family for keeping me determined to get out there and get the shot.


So; 9-hours on the plane, we landed in Dallas. Clear skies overhead; through the airport and out the other end. Another reminder back in January, most Car Hire companies had sold our by this point, so I opted for Uber. It might be more pricey, but takes the pressure of driving. Man I am glad I did. Got to our hotel, got to the service desk with my reservation only to be told "Your resevration is not on the list, Sir"......

Those of you who know, I aspire to the music of Grace Jones and the inner panther was really coming out in me now!!!!! The hotel had cancelled our reservation. We were not on the system to get a room. I was distraught; worried we were going to be sleeping on the streets by this point. After some two-ing and throwing, I was so glad to have printed off our reservation because this saved our booking (despite leaving a paper trail). Magically after a discussion with the Manager; they reimbursed our booking. Who only knows why they cancelled it?! We got to the room; migraine and all; seriously having enough by this point; let alone catching up with jet-lag!!


The big day was coming so we made it our best interests to relax and concentrate on what needed to be done ahead of April 8th... What an eclipse this would be.


Fox Weather | The Report changes from 'Many' to 'Few' Clouds:
It would be a 'hit or miss' scenario:

So, the day come. Having not really recovered from the day before, the skies were looking good. As Josh does in typical fashion; constantly looking at the weather. By this point, the news bulletins were giving an idea of where may be clear and where may not be. However, I was really confused by this point. One astornomer saying the more north you go, the better your chances. The forecast said cloud for North Texas!!!! Anywhere north of I-20 would be clear. It was quite frankly, showing gaps in the cloud practically everywhere and really it was pot luck; a gamble if clouds would spoil the show.


Looking at the numbers, I was quite reluctant to take my equipment to Downtown Dallas. Looking at the live broadcast afterwards, it probably was a good job I didn't. It was SO crowded. Luckilly for us, we found a patch of green land near to our hotel to observe the eclipse from. Same duration, but just away from the hustle and bustle to witness the event. At breakfast time, high-cirrus clouds were predicted. Not enough to ruin the show. Then 9am hit. A sweeping blanket of thick cloud decideding to make its presence known. My nerves were on end. It said in the forecast this was meant to clear by 11am and it sure did. The cloud broke up and it really was like any other spring day; gaps in the clouds.


The skies cleared! | Josh with his gear to capture The Great American Eclipse:

After tinkering with my setup, it was amazing to think other people also had the same idea; only a handful going to the same area. Who would believe near a parking lot you would bump into astornomers from Barbados, Chile and Europe?! Quite amazing.


Then, the crucial time of 1233 began. The partial eclipse was underway. I love the nostalgia of eclipses; each reminscent of each other, when you see the first 'bite' being taken out of the Sun. Luckilly for us, gaps in the clouds allowed us to witness the partial eclipse. However, pressure was already mounting to think the moment, which we have been through hell and high water for - is coming. There was no more we could do. We made our decision to stay local and that was it. We really were at the mercy of the weather.


Beforehand, I would say that I would do a Instagram Live on the event; to give others the chance to witness the event as it unfolded. Yes, it was not the greatest weather forecast. We could have travelled to Indianapolis, Arkansas, or Veromont. It was a good job we didn't by this point as we learned soon after, a large proportion of flights were again, "cancelled" from Dallas Fort Worth due to the storm in the evening!? It was a surpise we got home by this point!!! So with this against us, we stayed to see it through.


And then... Totality:

The moment was upon us. The light was beginning to diminish, the surroundings were turning a dark pastelly colour. The final moments of light from the Sun casting everything all into this weird light. By this point, cloud was moving absaloutely everywhere. I notice this with eclipses; especially totality. They don't know what to do with themselves. I took snaps regardless and I really did not think I caught anything through the clouds. I really did think it was game over. On review of my rushes, I had the most pleasent surprise. I had captured the diamond ring. I got the prominces; the corona. Oh how beautiful they were; there was at least five on the solar disc. Some big ones too. Then, the moment when darkness flooded the landscape and the Moon's shadow reached Dallas. It was extroadinary. When I saw totality, I never realised the emotional impact this would have on me. I was in tears; the best description I can give is the feeling of hearbreak even though I was not. I was so overwhelmed to see it; flashing my trigger at every opportunity I could. The stars showed up; the planets: Jupiter and Venus could be seen. The sunset on the horizon in every direction. We made it.


The view from Space | NASA Goddard:

Even for a merciful 3-minutes 52-seconds, we were plunged into darkess. To bare witness to the 'Great American Eclipse' was awe-inspiring. The more I write now, I remember the tempreature drop, the light, the experience, the cheers of the crowds. Although, clouds did get in our way. We unfortunately just about missed third-contact visually, but my cameras got it. When daylight returned to the landscape, I felt I had been dragged through a hedge backwards. I was so dis-orientated. trying to get my bearings. By this point, my phone was going off after The One Show aired. I did not know really what to do with myself!!


To bare witness to totality, is one of nature's greatest spectacles and makes you want to come back for more. I must say - as I said earlier. It really was luck of the draw and Downtown Dallas DID have clear skies. No-one was to know and even if I knew ahead of time, I would not have changed it for the world. I was so delighted to have witnessed the eclipse and with my Mum too - my fellow Eclipse Chaser who has always been such a plinth of support to help my achieve my goals. We were both so emotional.


Josh and his Mum had done it:

I was glad to have stayed in Texas because I soon learned during our visit, we began to learn more about Texas also being recognised as 'The Lone Star State'. Myself, I thought what a fitting tribute it would be for anyone to witness the Eclipse form Texas; paying hommange to the Sun; the 'Lone Star' of our Solar System and to say we captured 'The Lone Star Eclipse'. What a title!!


It was also again (theme developing here), emotional to learn of their traditions and heritage. It played such a large story in the meaning and build-up to the eclipse. Each one telling its own story. Soon after we witnessed to partial-phases of the eclipse, we made our way to Southfork Ranch; the setting for the television show, 'Dallas'. What an expeirence to see all the props, the ranch itself and the culture as well; the longhorns as well as the tall cowboy hats.


Then, on to Fort Worth to witness the Stockyards. It was so lovely to see how proud the locals were of their cowboy heritage. To think in the astornomy world, this was their time.


Being in Dallas, I wanted us to celebrate in style. If you have never been, there is a great resturaunt at the top of The Reunion Tower; "The Crown Block". It was one of the best dining experiences that I have had in a long time. And what a way to see Dallas and the Eclipse out in style; dining away in a skyline resturaunt; overlooking the city that witnessed it all. Watching the storms on the distant horizon. It was *perfection.


On arrival in the UK, the amount of oppirtunities this eclipse opened up was immense. Again I could not be more thankful for the kindness and generosity of my family and all those involved in helping me get there and keep us going. We reached totality and we got to our end goal. If there is anyone who feels like everything is up against them. It's easier said than done but do not give up hope. Keep determined until the very last munte. Even then, you never know - you may reach your goal.

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page