Chasing shadows: Nevada County man gearing up for his fifteenth eclipse | SierraSun.com

Chasing shadows: Nevada County man gearing up for his fifteenth eclipse

Matthew Pera
Staff Writer

David Buchla, a member of the Nevada County Astronomers Club, will head north into "the path of totality" to witness his 15th solar eclipse Monday. The magnificent event, he said, is something he wouldn't want to miss.

Buchla considers himself an "umbraphile" — a term that means, literally, "shadow lover," but is used to describe those who are addicted to the beauty and splendor of total solar eclipses.

For those at home in Nevada County, the moon won't cover the entirety of the sun's visible surface. Witnessing Monday's "total" solar eclipse would require some travel, and Buchla said anyone hoping to make last-minute plans to witness the rare event is probably "out of luck" when it comes to finding accommodations along the path.

But even outside the narrow region where a total eclipse will be visible, Buchla said, we're in for a treat.

According to data provided by NASA, a partial eclipse in Grass Valley will begin at 9:03 a.m. and end at 11:40 a.m. Monday. The partial eclipse will peak at 10:18 a.m. when the moon will cover roughly 80 percent of the sun.

Buchla said observers in the Nevada County area will notice a slight drop in temperature, a change in the sky's complexion, and strangely-shaped shadows during the partial eclipse.

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He warns anyone observing the eclipse never to look directly at the sun, which can cause retinal burning and blindness. Eclipse-viewing glasses are available, but should be purchased from reputable retailers, as many sub-par knockoffs exist, which can be dangerous. Buchla said doubling up on sunglasses won't cut it either.

"Your eyesight isn't worth all the eclipses in the world," he said, noting that people get hurt every year looking at the sun — even if it's just for a brief glance.

Buchla witnessed his first total eclipse in 1972 from the deck of a ship on the Atlantic Ocean.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

The following year, he took his whole family to Africa to witness another. He's been hooked ever since.

In the 70s, Buchla said, he was "young and immature."

"Well, I guess I still am," he said. "Maybe not young anymore — but I'm still chasing eclipses."

For Monday's event, Buchla has packed the eclipse-chasing essentials: binoculars, cameras, lenses, tripods, an eye patch, a whiteboard and homemade pinhole images that he'll use to play with shadows.

He wouldn't disclose the exact location he plans to observe from, but said he's routinely checked weather forecasts to ensure he'll have maximum visibility.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.