Totality was a total bust for me — but not for the reason you may think

A cloudy sky above a stage and crowd.
Shortly before totality, the clouds thickened, diminishing any chances we had of seeing the celestial phenomenon with our own eyes. (Image credit: Daisy Dobrijevic)

Rochester, N.Y. — As the clouds rolled in, spirits remained high. I stood among thick crowds of people at the Rochester Museum & Science Center's ROC the Eclipse festival. "We'll still get to see something at least," said one festival goer to another, as we prepared to welcome the moon's shadow and experience the true darkness of totality. Having never experienced any type of solar eclipse before, I didn't know what to expect. 

It felt like an apocalyptic scene as an ominously dark lunar shadow raced across the sky, flanked on all sides by a rusty red hue that illuminated the clouds from above and cast an otherworldly scene for us watching from below. Everyone was so excited for the celestial wonder unfolding above. Though we couldn't see the eclipse, we could certainly feel it. The atmosphere was electric. Then, darkness fell.

During totality a dark shadow loomed overhead and the clouds appeared to be highlighted with rusty orange hues. They looked like they had stepped straight out of a Renaissance painting.   (Image credit: Daisy Dobrijevic)

I was surprised by how dark it got, and how incredible the clouds looked, They took on an almost Renaissance-esque appearance, like they'd stepped straight out of a painting. It was a remarkable scene, one I didn't think would be possible due to the thick cloud cover. 

Then, after about 30 seconds we were left in total shock as the security lights kicked in, triggered by totality's darkness. A clumsy mistake indeed. The brightness put a serious dampener on totality, we could no longer experience darkness nor see the sky well enough to admire what was happening overhead.  

Related: These solar eclipse 2024 photos from our readers are absolutely amazing 

A warm Rochester welcome

The only eclipse view I managed to capture that day was a tiny slither of a partial solar eclipse when the moon began to take its first "bite" out of the sun. (Image credit: Daisy Dobrijevic)

Despite the disappointing moments during totality, the lead-up to the eclipse was everything I hoped for and more. 

The beautiful city of Rochester welcomed me with open arms and put on an extensive collection of over 40 eclipse-themed events throughout downtown and the surrounding suburbs. The trip, my first-ever to New York from my home in the United Kingdom, was arranged by Visit Rochester.

From an Eclipse Spectacular at Genessee Country Village & Museum , to the ROC the Eclipse festival at the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) there was something for everyone. One event I didn't get to experience but wish I had was the "Alpacalipse 24" at the Lazy Acres Alpacas which was incredibly popular and had completely sold out.

In the days leading up to the eclipse, I had the pleasure of seeing what Rochester had to offer and explored many of the city's great museums and galleries. My comfortable stay at the Strathallan Hotel & Spa just a stone's throw from the RMSC and eclipse festivities was the perfect place to recoup after a long day of exploring and eclipse chasing. 

I particularly enjoyed touring the George Eastman Museum located within the former estate of George Eastman, a photograph and motion picture pioneer and the founder of Kodak. Founded in 1947 as an independent nonprofit organization the George Eastman Museum is the oldest photography museum in the world.

I even managed to find a Lunar Orbiter photographic subsystem from 1967 in one of the George Eastman galleries.

Kodak was a major subcontractor for NASA's lunar orbiter and created eight photographic subsystems, five of which made it to space aboard Orbiter spacecraft and helped to transmit photos of the moon back down to Earth.

"Once the photographs were taken, the film was processed and scanned, and the negative images were transmitted as analog video to receiving stations on Earth. The images were then written back to film and shipped to Kodak in Rochester for final reconstruction." said an accompanying statement next to the museum display.

A cosmic celebration

On the eve of the eclipse, Rochester put on a phenomenal show. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's "RPO Solar Eclipse Spectacular!" was a sci-fi delight with dazzling space visuals, dancers, aerialists and more. For the show, the 100-piece Rochester Philharmonic was joined by Rochester City Ballet, Troupe Vertigo aerialists and a 150-member community choir, among other guests.

Overall I had a fantastic time in Rochester, nothing could beat the atmosphere I experienced in the days and hours leading up to the eclipse. Though totality was a bust, it makes me even more determined to see a solar eclipse in all its glory.

I am particularly excited about the upcoming total solar eclipse in 2026 which will be visible in parts of northern Spain, Portugal, Iceland and Greenland. And the "eclipse of the century" is just a few years away, the 2027 total eclipse will boast a maximum totality of 6 minutes and 22 seconds as it sweeps over the central Eastern Hemisphere.

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Daisy Dobrijevic
Reference Editor

Daisy Dobrijevic joined in February 2022 having previously worked for our sister publication All About Space magazine as a staff writer. Before joining us, Daisy completed an editorial internship with the BBC Sky at Night Magazine and worked at the National Space Centre in Leicester, U.K., where she enjoyed communicating space science to the public. In 2021, Daisy completed a PhD in plant physiology and also holds a Master's in Environmental Science, she is currently based in Nottingham, U.K. Daisy is passionate about all things space, with a penchant for solar activity and space weather. She has a strong interest in astrotourism and loves nothing more than a good northern lights chase! 

  • perilun
    We were at Mt. Morris (the dam) about 30 miles south of Rochester, and yes clouds. But totality was very sudden and black, which was cool. Fun crowd, lots of kids and dogs. Sliver lining: no traffic issues at all getting up or back to my hometown of Elmira, NY, 1h and 20 min away.