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Penka explained: 'We are here to make pictures of phenomena only visible in a total eclipse.' They hope to measure the heat of the sun's corona - estimated to be around 1million degrees.
Mary and Bill O'Donnel's trip was an altogether more lighthearted affair.
The newly engaged couple had driven the 180 miles from their home in Des Moines, Iowa earlier that morning.
The corona burned clearly around the dark mass of shadow – Bailey's Beads - the spots of light that mark the approaching totality, danced and flickered at its edges.
Crowd-controlling barricades had been erected, streets had been closed off, and signs along the I-29N - the main artery between Kansas City and St Joseph - flashed warnings of increased traffic glimpsed only fleetingly by the cars that flowed freely past.
Records show overcast skies on August 21 occurred just once since 1995.
Penka Stoev, 63, and Alexey Stoev, 65, were among the first to arrive.
The couple had more reason than most to pray for the clouds to part.
As twilight descended a small flock of songbirds, flew low over the cars and sky gazers, seemingly panicked, darting towards the ground.