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The Great American Eclipse

By Staff | Aug 17, 2017

They are calling it the “Great American Eclipse.” It has not been seen on this scale across the continental United States for 99 years. An entire generation has grown up never having the opportunity to see this spectacular, wonder of nature a total solar eclipse.

Starting at about 9:05 PS T in Portland, OR., the path of the of the totality of the eclipse will cross the continental U.S. traveling from the west coast to the east coast traveling through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and finally through South Carolina before making its way out into the Atlantic. There is a 70-mile wide path through these states in which the totality of the eclipse will be seen, giving people in this path a chance to watch in amazement as the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, leaving a black hole with the Sun’s corona (an atmospheric halo of plasma that is 200 times hotter than the surface of the sun seen as light emanating around the moon’s shadow) visible with the naked eye.

Although, here in Northwest Iowa, we will not see a total eclipse of the sun, we should be able to see about a 95 percent eclipse.

There are some spectacular sights that can be seen during the phases of a total solar eclipse. When the sun is almost concealed by the moon, you may notice blobs of light that appear around the edges. This is the sunlight shining through the valleys, chasms and mountain peaks that are on the moon and are known as Bailey’s Beads. As the moon creeps even further across the sun until there is only a large blob of light left, you can see what is called the Diamond Ring. Finally when the moon completely engulfs the sun, the sun’s corona shoots out from behind the moon in all directions. However if solar activity is weak or there is none, the corona will be in an elliptical shape around the dark hole caused by the moon.

At this point, you may view the eclipse without protective eyewear and you will have about two minutes of viewing time before protective eyewear is needed. There are many places that are selling “Eclipse Glasses” which can be purchased, but many counterfeit glasses are also on the market. One great way of view the eclipse is to use a Pinhole Projector.

The simplest way to make a pinhole projector is with two pieces of cardboard. In on piece, cut a one-inch hole, tape a piece of foil over the hole and make a pinhole in the middle of the foil. Use the other piece of cardboard (should be white for best viewing) as a screen. With the sun behind you, hold the pinhole cardboard as far from your screen as you can. The farther (meaning the higher) the pinhole is from the screen, the bigger your image will be.

The actually eclipse takes about two hours and here in northwest Iowa, you can join the Palo Alto and Clay Conservation Boards at Lost Island to view this spectacular event between 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

The disappearance of the sun behind the moon is not the only thing that happens during an eclipse. Nature itself will take notice. Depending on your surroundings, the closer the totality approaches people may experience strange things. The eclipse will resemble the onset of night. Any breeze will dissipate, birds will quit chirping and nocturnal animals will start to rise. A 10 to 15 degree temperature drop will also occur.

This spectacular event also kicks off what is being called the Golden Age of Eclipses. The children today can hope to see Five American Eclipses within the next 35 years. We as adults who have watched in silent wonder at incredible sight need to ensure that the children of today have an opportunity to see this truly remarkable event safely and teach them about astronomy, space and science in general.