Eclipse-Chaser Shares Thrill Of The Hunt

Out West Sunday, it will start getting dark earlier than normal, but just for a little while. A major solar eclipse, although not quite total, will spread across the skies in a 200-mile swath from Oregon into west Texas. Longtime Washington, D.C., meteorologist Bob Ryan has traveled the world chasing eclipses with his wife. He joins host Rachel Martin.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

Later today, out West, it'll start getting dark earlier than normal but just for a little while. That's because a major solar eclipse - although not quite total - will spread across the skies in a 200-mile stretch from Oregon into West Texas. Eclipse chasers from around the country are getting into position.

Longtime Washington, D.C. meteorologist Bob Ryan and his wife, Olga, are eclipsed fanatics, and they have traveled the world chasing them. Bob Ryan joins us on the line now. Welcome to the program.

BOB RYAN: Well, thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: So, you and your wife have made eclipses a reason to see the world. Where have you witnessed some of these experiences?

RYAN: Well, I saw my first eclipse, believe it or not, it was in Nantucket along about 1969. Ever since, it's like so many things that are so extraordinary that you see and that your brain says, that's unbelievable, I want to see that again. And ever since, we have been chasing them a bit. We went to Libya...

MARTIN: ...Libya.

RYAN: We did go to Germany to see the total eclipse in Germany a number of years ago. But unfortunately it was raining, and it was literally like the middle of the night. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the sun. And Russia, in Siberia, we went. And two years ago, we went to Tahiti. So...

MARTIN: Wow. You have a favorite among those.

RYAN: Each one is unique in the timing. But Libya, in the middle of the Sahara, in being in the middle of the desert, and then seeing essentially a sunset all around you, but it was that ethereal area around the sun. And the black hole was there in the middle of the sky, so one could imagine what the ancient people thought. It was like the end of the world when this happened.

MARTIN: Well, isn't there kind of a fearful quality? I mean people who witnessed these, talk about this idea that it's very unsettling to see the sun go away.

RYAN: It is. It is unsettling because it then just goes against everything that you naturally believe and that you live and see each and every day; that is some sunlight or brightness. And then, were the sun should be is literally this black hole. And, of course, as everybody says, you can - up until the time of totality you have to be looking through special filters and so forth.

But then at the time of totality, and you see this pearly glow around the sun, you can look directly up at the sun. And then see the great streamers coming out and the corona. And it's magical.

Now, in 2017, there is a total eclipse that spreads across - all across the United States from the Northwest and then ends off of South Carolina. So there'll be millions and millions of people that will be able to see - and not travel too far - to be able to see a total eclipse of the sun across the United States. And that will be, that will be a big deal.

MARTIN: Do you have your spot scouted out yet?

RYAN: Well, you know, it's all climatology. Wyoming and the eastern areas of Idaho typically are the driest and the cloud-free...

MARTIN: That's where I'm from. I should go home to watch a solar eclipse.

Well, I'm inviting you to my parents' house in eastern Idaho to watch the solar eclipse in 2017, if you're interested.

RYAN: We will, and a little bubbly maybe is in order...

...if you, you know, if you've never seen one, my goodness, what better spot to see your first total eclipse of the sun?

MARTIN: Bob Ryan is a meteorologist for WJLA Television here in Washington, D.C. Mr. Ryan, it was a pleasure. Nice to talk with you.

RYAN: Delightful, and we'll see you at your folks' house.

MARTIN: We'll see you there.

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