I proposed under the diamond ring of the 2024 total solar eclipse

a diamond ring effect caused by a total solar eclipse.
(Image credit: Josh Dinner)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — I worked out the perfect plan to propose to my partner during the April 8 solar eclipse, and the clouds somehow stayed away. I won't bury the lede. She said yes. 

I spent the last year planning my proposal to coincide with the 2024 total solar eclipse, lining up the perfect photo, figuring out what I would say, and getting the timing just right. I couldn't be happier with how the day went. I'm not sure when it dawned on me, but with totality passing directly over my house, the chance to capture the eclipse's diamond ring effect as I popped the question was one I couldn't pass up.

I've known I wanted to propose for longer than this, but ever since we hit the one-year countdown mark for the April 8 eclipse, I have been periodically buzzing around Bloomington trying to find the perfect place to shoot my engagement. And after all this past year, my plans really only came together in the last few weeks leading up to the big day.

Video and photos: Total solar eclipse 2024 thrills millions across North America

My fiancée's name is Dara (like "Sarah"). Typing that just now is also the first time I've called her my fiancée. I expect saying and typing it out will become second-nature soon enough. Dara and I met on one of the dating apps in 2021. She, like me, is a huge "Star Trek" fan, though she likes "Star Wars" more, and she is the one who finally made me sit down and watch the movie "Galaxy Quest," which I now know is an absolute masterpiece. Dara is also an amazing artist, and I am constantly impressed with what she is able to create.

Dara did not expect a proposal during Monday's eclipse. In fact, repeatedly in the weeks leading up to April 8, she voiced her concern for me and my stress over the eclipse. As a photographer with only one solar eclipse under my belt, I have been hyper-focused on figuring out settings and framing for several different shots I was hoping to get. And, as you can imagine, a total solar eclipse spanning across the United States is an all-hands-on-deck sort of event for the staff at Space.com, and everyone has been extremely busy in their preparations.

Dara Zuckerman (left) and Josh Dinner (right). (Image credit: Josh Dinner)

So, my stress and workload leading up to April 8 didn't raise any red flags, nor did my insistence that my parents and as much of Dara's family as I could convince come to Bloomington for the "once-in-a-lifetime" celestial alignment. Being a huge space nerd, I spent the past year screaming from the metaphorical rooftops. to anyone who would listen, to get to totality. 

For months, I knew where I wanted this engagement to take place — the roof of a parking garage (yes, a parking garage) across the street from a Taco Bell (romantic, right?) in downtown Bloomington. I've shot from this particular parking garage several times. It has a beautiful view of the Monroe County Courthouse that stands in the center of town, and a low, far horizon. Dara and I have lived in Bloomington for a few years, and I wanted to capture the heart of Bloomington in frame with the proposal and totality.

I maintain that this would have been a fantastic spot for my proposal but, alas, that was not to be my fate. Something I should have done very early on, but didn't, was contact the city to let them know about my plans. As it were, I waited until last month or so to finally give the folks at the City of Bloomington Parking Services division a call. That's when they informed me that not only was my plan DOA, but in fact no one would be allowed on the roofs of any of the city's parking garages during the day of the eclipse. Structural concerns with the weight of potentially several hundred people, in addition to the parked cars, led city managers to make the decision — and it was the right one, even if I was not thrilled by this answer. 

Bloomington officials did allow me to set up a remote camera downtown to help the city commemorate the eclipse, but with no access to the parking garage on the day-of, I got to work on a backup plan.

The 2024 total solar eclipse over downtown Bloomington, Indiana. (Image credit: Josh Dinner)

Indiana University had announced their eclipse extravaganza, the Hoosier Cosmic Celebration, which took place at IU's Memorial Stadium, with notable names on the bill including retired NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, "Star Trek's" William Shatner and Janelle Monáe, who performed a concert after totality. Being that April 8 was still a workday at Space.com, I knew the Hoosier Cosmic Celebration was where I'd need to be. I reached out to the IU event organizers to enlist their help, and they were extremely generous with their accommodations. 

If any of you are reading this, Dara and I thank you so much.

A week before the eclipse, I was able to tour the stadium with a photography colleague I'd asked to help me with the shot, and we lined up where I'd need to be to get totality in frame with my proposal. With how high the sun was going to be, I needed to find a place fairly higher than where the cameras would be set up to get the shot.

The morning of the eclipse, I set up a tracking telescope and camera on a corner of the stadium's southwest terrace, away from ticketed areas for the day's event. That was going to be the spot.

I set up a few other cameras for other shots I wanted to get of the day, and the morning quickly slipped into afternoon. Suddenly, the Cosmic Celebration was beginning. I had purchased tickets for our families to attend, and they made their way to a spot on the field to enjoy the afternoon under the fading sun. I told Dara ahead of time I might need her help with handling some of my camera gear during totality, so it wasn't a surprise to her when I walked over from the press area to pull her away from our families 20 minutes before the big moment.

We made our way up to the terrace where my telescope and some tripods were set up, and I took a few minutes to prepare my lenses and solar filters for the approaching darkness. Amidst making sure my equipment was on the right settings and my focuses were right, I asked Dara to hold one of my lenses. This part I was super excited about. 

I'd been carrying around this lens all day, discreetly checking and rechecking that it was still in my camera bag. This lens helped me pull off my ruse until the very last second. I owe many thanks to the wonderfully inventive minds at KēLō Designs, who created a ring box out of a camera lens. It was seconds before totality, and I could tell Dara was trying to hurry me along, letting me know that my time to man my cameras was ticking away. 

Already on one knee, rummaging through my camera bag, I looked at Dara and asked for her to hand me the lens back. With a twist of the focus ring, a small metal aperture (where the lens glass would normally be) opened. A ring inside rose out. Because I knew it would be dark, I also rigged a very small LED light just underneath the ring, helping it sparkle as it opened and creating a small amount of light for the camera below to catch with the much larger diamond ring in the sky.

Now, one random fact about me that is relevant to this story is that I write haikus. I'll randomly think of them, or overhear someone say something and decide to count the syllables; if it fits into the five-seven-five syllable structure, I'll write it down. Sometimes, I'll tweet them out. I've been doing this for years for no real reason. 

My proposal ended up being a composition of seven haikus, but, in reciting them, the words sounded as if they were spoken in any other sentence format. In order to keep at least some of our engagement just between us, I won’t write all of them here, but I will include the last one.

The totality / Of my heart belongs to you. / Will you marry me?

— Josh Dinner

Josh Dinner proposing during totality. (Image credit: Josh Dinner)

I was not confident the pun at the end wouldn't get me thrown off the terrace we were on, but I was pretty hopeful.

To my delight, she said yes. 

Alone on the terrace, we celebrated for a moment, but quickly turned our attention back to the other momentous thing happening — the rest of totality. I knew proposing during the eclipse meant giving up some of our time witnessing the big event in the sky, but I also knew that would matter way more to me than it would to Dara. That's part of the reason I chose eclipse day.

Space is not only my job, it's my passion. I could wax poetic on the wonders of the cosmos and spaceflight for another 1,500 words and more, but I will spare you the screen time. I wanted to show Dara that she is more important to me than the most important things — even the last total solar eclipse we'll probably watch together until we're in our fifties. It makes me really happy to think we'll still be together when that next one comes around.

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Josh Dinner
Writer, Content Manager

Josh Dinner is Space.com's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.

  • 24launch
    How awesome Josh!

    She, like me, is a huge "Star Trek" fan, though she likes "Star Wars" more, and she is the one who finally made me sit down and watch the movie "Galaxy Quest," which I now know is an absolute masterpiece.
    Yeah, she's a keeper!

    Congratulations to you both!!!
  • spacemanrao
    Hello Josh and Dara,

    Congratulations on your engagement!

    I proposed to my (at the time fiancee to be) in 1967. She was underage, but I had called the restaurant ahead of time and indicated I wanted a bottle of champagne delivered to the table when I signaled the waiter. As soon as we were seated, the waiter brought the champagne...! I wasn't prepared, but figured I was forced into the moment...and proposed. She also said "Yes" and all of a sudden applause broke out from the tables around us.

    We have now been married more than 55 years, so she also was definitely a "keeper"!

    Loved your story and your passion for space. I am - even as I now approach my 80th - a total nut on cosmology...and enjoying life with my love of a lifetime.

    Congrats again...and maybe 55 years or so from now, you'll remember this tribute!

    All the best, RAO
  • ShalaS
    Awwwww!! (-: