The Great American Eclipse Event
There are a great number of questions that come up any time you talk about a once in a lifetime event such as an eclipse. Because it is such a unique experience we are going to try to answer some of those questions people might be asking over the next few weeks.
When was the last total solar eclipse in the continental U.S.? The last total solar eclipse was in February of 1979, but because of bleak weather conditions and its location in the far Northwest, passing over only five states, not many people saw it.
What is a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse is a lineup of the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. The Moon, directly between the Sun and Earth, casts a shadow on our planet. If you are in the dark part of the shadow (the umbra) you will see a solar eclipse. If you are in the light part (the penumbra) you will see a partial eclipse.
What about locations outside of totality?
The truth is, everyone in the continental U.S. will see at least a partial eclipse. In fact, those with clear skies will see the Moon cover at least 48 perfect of the Sun’s surface, as far away from the line of totality as Maine.
So, is totality REALLY THAT important?
In fact, it’s all about totality. Being able to see 48 percent may seem like a lot, but in reality, it isn’t. Those outside the path of totality will not likely even notice their surroundings getting dark. Only totality reveals the true celestial spectacle, including seeing the Sun’s corona, strange colors in our sky and seeing stars in the daytime.
What else will be happening?
Nature will take notice. Depending on your surroundings, as totality gets closer, you will notice a resemblance to the onset of night, though not exactly. Shadows look different. Usually any breeze will dissipate and birds (many of whom will come in to roost) will stop chirping. It may be quiet. A 10-15 degree drop in temperatures is not unusual.
Are there any big cities in the path of totality?
Nashville, Tennessee is the only large city in the continental U.S. in the path of totality. About half of Kansas City and St. Louis lie within the path of totality, but only on the outer edges of the line, which will give citizens there less than a minute of totality. Educated guesses say that most residents in Kansas City, especially, interested in the eclipse, will take the drive up I-35 to get over two minutes of totality.
Is it safe to view an eclipse?
To view the entire phenomenon of the eclipse, it is important to observe proper eye safety. The bright portion of the sun is NOT safe to view at any time without proper eye protection. During the brief time of totality – two minutes twenty-seven seconds in Cameron - when the moon completely covers the sun, it will be safe to view with the naked eye. But to watch the moon slowly cover the sun and to watch as the Sun begins to peek from behind it again, it is important to use eye protection. There are several ways to protect your eyes during an eclipse, but the simplest, is eclipse glasses.