Eclipse-chasing UTA alum: ‘They are astounding.’

UTA alum traveled globe to see four total eclipses. He’ll watch his fifth from his backyard.

Monday, Apr 01, 2024 • Neph Rivera : contact

Photo of UTA alum Bob Bedell

In his home office, retired Col. Bob Bedell (’81 MBA) is quick to point out a framed photo of what’s known as the “diamond ring” of a total solar eclipse—that point at the beginning and end of totality when a brilliant burst of light shines from the thinner ring of light around the moon.

It’s a sight few have been lucky enough to see. Bedell, an eclipse enthusiast who took the photo, has witnessed it four times in locations across the world.

“It’s been estimated that only one out of 10,000 people worldwide will ever see a total solar eclipse in their lifetimes,” he said. “And with the one coming up this April, I’m going to have seen five. Five instances of the shadow of the moon racing across the surface of the Earth in speeds exceeding 1,500 miles per hour. It’s astounding.”

Photo of UTA alum Bob Bedell wearing UTA branded solar eclipse glasses

Bedell’s eclipse-chasing blossomed upon his retirement, when he and his wife, Imelda, took a trip to see the total solar eclipse in Novosibirsk, Siberia, with a tour group in 2008. After that, they were hooked.

“Obviously, the eclipse itself is aesthetically beautiful, and it changes the environment around you,” he said. “The light changes; the shadows sharpen. It’s a wonderful, spiritual experience if you want it to be.” 

In 2010, the Bedells traveled to watch the total solar eclipse from a freighter in French Polynesia. It was there that Bedell snapped the photo hanging in his office. While the eclipse itself was as astounding as ever, the most meaningful part of the experience to him was the connection shared between the passengers, the ship’s Polynesian crew and the captain.

“When the eclipse was over, the captain came out, and everyone stood and cheered. We were all so thankful for the work he did to position the ship just right and keep things as still as possible,” he said, fighting back tears. “But then the captain told us through a translator, with great emotion, how grateful he was to have had this moment with us. He thanked us, and he thanked God. It was an extraordinary, memorable moment.”

The couple watched their third eclipse on a beach on Green Island in the Cairns region of Australia in 2012, waiting for the sun to rise in the pre-dawn hours. Bedell described beautiful light breaking over the horizon and a shared feeling of awe coming from the group when the eclipse began. For their most recent eclipse in 2017, the Bedells remained stateside, enjoying time at a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with their then-9-year-old grandson.

Photo taken by Bob Bedell of diamond ring effect during solar eclipse
Photo courtesy of Bob Bedell

This year, Bedell is looking forward to staying home and seeing the April 8 eclipse from his own backyard in Mansfield, because he’ll be able to share it with local friends and family. He encourages everyone in the path of totality to take a moment out of their day to enjoy the spectacle and hopefully recognize what a gift it is.

“When I got my first telescope, I spent time just learning how to use it, and I’d plan for what I wanted to observe. I’d make a list, and I’d go through it, one by one,” he said. “I learned later that it’s good to have a plan, but if I just relax and take it all in, it’s beautiful. Observing reminds me we are just a small part of the universe, and we don’t have to be so focused on ourselves. That’s when it becomes spiritual for me.”

For everyone gearing up to observe the total solar eclipse on April 8, Bedell’s advice is simple.

“During the eclipse, relax, be in the moment and enjoy this amazing event,” he said. “Take the time to stop, to observe and to feel and share awe with your fellow humans. It’s the entire point.”

-By Amber Scott, Marketing, Messaging, and Engagement