Wayne and Joyce Smith, of Frankston, know exactly where they will be and what they will be doing at midday on Aug. 21. For several years, they have planned their life around two minutes that they anticipate will take their breath away.
The Smiths will travel hundreds of miles to Stanton, Missouri, to be able to witness astronomy’s most spectacular celestial event - a total eclipse of the sun.
They will join millions of others who either live in or plan to travel into the 70-mile wide, 3,000-mile-long swath of the United States to see a blazing August sun disappear and day slowly and eerily transform into completely darkness.
“It will be pretty impressive,” Wayne Smith said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Smiths and some of their friends have reservations at a campground and will be setting up telescopes with protective lenses to get the best look possible of the phenomenon.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun and blocks the view of the sun.
Eclipses typically occur in remote locations and for short durations. This one is being dubbed the Great American Eclipse because for the first time in 48 years a total eclipse will occur in the continental United States, and the first time in 99 years it will stretch from coast to coast.
Everyone in the United States will experience at least a partial eclipse and many people - from Oregon to South Carolina - will experience the wonder of a total eclipse. By some estimates, more than 20 million people will position themselves in the path of totality, according to greatamericaneclipse.com
IN EAST TEXAS
Paul Shaw, president of the East Texas Astronomical Society, said that in East Texas about 80 percent of the sun will be darkened. The moon will begin moving between the sun and Earth at 11:43 a.m., hit maximum blockage at 1:14 p.m. and complete its passage in front of the sun at 2:43 p.m.
During the period of maximum blockage, the sun will look like a crescent moon in the sky, the light will fade to a level that occurs at dusk and the temperature will drop a few degrees.
“It will be spectacular,” Shaw said.
People will need special glasses in order to view the eclipse, Shaw said. Sunglasses, even with dark lenses, will not protect a viewer’s eyes.
“Any time you look at the sun, you have the possibility for eye damage or blindness,” Shaw said. “Do not look at the sun without NASA approved protected lenses.”
The Discovery Science Place, 308 N. Broadway Ave., is selling viewing glasses.
“I ordered 250 and I think we’re down to about 50,” Chris Rasure, executive director, said earlier this month. “I didn’t realize there would be this much interest in it, this far out.”
Rasure said he has ordered more of the inexpensive, disposable glasses.
The children’s science museum will mark the eclipse by holding Solar Eclipse Day with activities planned from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Rasure said Discovery Science Place is using the eclipse as an opportunity to teach children more about the movement of the sun, planets and moon.
“Our hope is that an event like this will inspire a kid,” Rasure said. “Maybe by looking at it through a telescope, it will inspire a kid to explore further what is happening. That’s what our aim is.”
Tyler Junior College’s The Center for Earth & Space Science Education, 1411 E. Lake St., also will hold events to coincide with the eclipse.
The center will show “Totality,” a 25-minute film about solar and lunar eclipses in its domed theater at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Admission to the show is $5.
Staff members will be outside the center before and during the eclipse.
“We’re excited to offer an outdoor viewing of the eclipse - and free solar viewing glasses while supplies last,” said Brian Kremer, TJC science center coordinator, in a statement released by the college. “We will also have other special equipment available for safe viewing, so people will have multiple ways to experience the eclipse.”
The center also will stream live video of the eclipse footage from NASA, the announcement said.
Jonathan Kavanaugh, of Kilgore, has been viewing the sun and eclipses for years through telescopes with protective lenses.
He will set up telescopes outside Discover Science Place so children can get a good view of the eclipse. He said he will also set up a monitor for viewing.
Kavanaugh said for those who do not have glasses, the best way to view the eclipse is by making a pinhole projector.
A projector is made from two pieces of cardboard (or stiff paper). Cut a small square in the center of one of the pieces and tape foil over the hole. Use a pin to poke a hole in the center of the foil.
Place the second piece of cardboard on the ground.
Position the cardboard with the foil facing the sun. The sunshine will pass through the pin hole and be seen as a circle of light on the second piece. During the eclipse, the circle of light will be replaced by darkness as the moon begins blocking the sun’s rays.
Kavanaugh is looking forward to sharing the spectacle of an eclipse with children who show up for Solar Eclipse Day.
“The exciting part of this for me is the large interest (in the eclipse) of the public,” said Kavanaugh, a member of the East Texas Astronomical Society. “Sharing our love for astronomy and science is our primary goal.”
Shaw said that people should never pass up a chance to view a total eclipse.
“Experiencing a total eclipse is an awe-inspiring almost mystical experience,” he said. “The feeling during totality is often described as eerie. It has been known to cause people to look at their spirituality and examine their inner selves.”
During a total eclipse, the sun looks like a black circle in the sky with a magnificently glowing outer ring. The ring, called a corona, is made up of gasses.
“It’s the most gorgeous natural wonder you will ever see,” Mike Kentrianakis, solar eclipse project manager for the American Astronomical Society, said in a prepared statement. “If it strikes you hard enough, you will never be the same.”
In a few years, Tyler area residents will be able to see a total eclipse without leaving home. The next total eclipse in the United States is set for April 8, 2024, and Tyler will be in the total eclipse area.
Moving southwest to northeast, the total eclipse will extend from Mexico and into small parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and New Hampshire before moving through Maine.
- This is the first total solar eclipse since 1918 to move from coast to coast.
- The last total eclipse in the United States occurred Feb. 26, 1979. It was seen in five states in the Northwest and bad weather obscured viewing in most places.
- The total eclipse will first be experienced in the U.S. on the waterfront at Government Point, Oregon, at 10:15 a.m. PDT.
- Giant City State Park, just south of Carbondale, Illinois, will experience the longest duration of totality, 2 minutes and 42 seconds.
- State employees in Jefferson City, Missouri, have been given the day off as a paid holiday. Officials there are bracing for an influx of 40,000 to 50,000 visitors to see the eclipse.
- Experts estimate this will be the most watched, most photographed total eclipse in history.
- Alaska Airlines will have a special flight for astronomy enthusiasts who want a guaranteed unobstructed view. It will depart from Portland, Oregon, and be at 35,000 feet when the total eclipse occurs.
- Among many celebrations scheduled throughout the United States are the Oregon Solar Fest in Madras, Oregon; Total Solar Eclipse Festival in Glendo, Wyoming; Total Solar Eclipse/160 Year Festival in Lathrop, Missouri; and the Total Eclipse Weekend in Columbia, South Carolina.
- Scientific researchers positioned along the path of totality will create a record-breaking 90-minute video documenting the eclipse as it moves across the United States.
Sources: NASA, Astronomy Magazine, space.com, greatamercicaneclipse.com
SAFETY GLASSES NEEDED
Those who attempt to look at the eclipse without protective lenses, risk severe damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Only lenses with specially designed solar filters can be used. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses are not safe for looking at the sun.
Don’t use any filter that is scratched or damaged.
Cover your eyes with protective glasses before looking at the sun and do not remove the glasses until you look away.
Do not look at partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope or binoculars.
Seek advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or other optical device.
Sources: NASA, Astronomy Magazine