Two years from today! Where will you be? 8)
I'm wondering how many of you have already made plans for The Great American Eclipse of 2017.
I've been writing a casual stargazing column for our little local newspaper and wrote up
the article pasted below to try and stir up some area interest.
Researching and writing about it have really got me excited!
Insider Stargazing Tips
Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017
A total eclipse of our sun occurs only two years from tomorrow. The rarest event in sky watching. The last one visible from the ‘lower 48’ occurred in 1979. Astronomers and sky watchers have been talking about it for several years. Many have already booked motels along the path of totality. So, no, two years is not at all too far ahead to plan!
The extraordinary event begins in the Pacific (imagine that sunrise!), comes ashore on the coast of Oregon and stretches all the way across the country and into the Atlantic at South Carolina. The long (but narrow) path of totality, combined with favorable weather and easy access for millions, have prompted eclipse enthusiasts to dub this “The Great American Eclipse”. And it truly is an American eclipse – the moon‘s shadow will only touch mainland U.S. soil. The last time that happened was June 13, 1257 and it won’t happen again until January 25, 2316!
“Eclipse chasers” from all over the world will be here to see it. Most of them will tour part of our country before settling in at their chosen location. I’m betting that Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon will attract a lot more solar tourists than Nebraska, Missouri, and states to the east. Jackson Hole may be one of the most popular places of all. Which is why I think I’ll avoid it.
A scenic location from which to view, certainly sounds appealing. But aside from being absolutely certain that you’re in the path of totality, the next most critical consideration is… the weather. There are maps online, which indicate the likelihood of clear skies in any given location on August 21 of an average year. Eastern Oregon, for example, has much better odds than the coastal region. But you know how things can work out, when you plan so far ahead. Murphy’s Law has to be considered. Contingency plans must be ready to implement if unusually cloudy weather moves in on your chosen location.
An internet search of ‘2017 solar eclipse’ will provide a wealth of information. Find a couple websites that you’re comfortable with. ‘Eclipse2017.org’ is one that I can recommend. And start planning. Now.
“So what’s the big deal?” you might ask. Didn’t we just have a solar eclipse a couple years ago? No, not like this. Not a TOTAL eclipse. The annular eclipse on May 20, of 2012, was really impressive to see, but only hinted at the awesome spectacle of a total eclipse. The difference is like, well… like night and day!
We’ll literally see day turn to night in a matter of minutes. Orion and the stars of late winter and early spring will come out. Venus will be visible high in the sky, which is normally impossible. And as the last thin crescent of sun disappears, the corona appears! A truly astounding phenomenon!
For the brief couple minutes of totality, all the eclipse glasses and special filters (that you MUST learn about and USE) can be set aside. Your eyes can safely view the corona, though your mind may have difficulty believing what you’re seeing. I wouldn’t even bother messing with a camera… the time is far too precious. There will be plenty of pictures online to look at afterwards. But the precious memory will be seared into your brain forever.
You may have seen an eclipse depicted on film, if you saw the 1962 biblical classic ‘Barabbas’. The crucifixion scene was delayed in order to be filmed during a total eclipse in Italy. This was, of course, before modern day special effects and computer wizardry, and was filmed in one take. Awesome! You can watch it on you-tube, if you search the keywords. If anyone here has already seen an actual total eclipse, I’ll be a little surprised, very impressed, and I really want to hear from you.
Only a very small percentage of humans have ever witnessed this amazing phenomenon, but those who have, swear that it’s the most incredible thing they have ever witnessed. This will be my first. I sure hope you’ll join me!