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  The Total Solar Eclipse: August 21, 2017

I know this isn't about sports, but it is something you MUST plan on seeing!! And it's right here in Idaho.

By: Gary Jones
Published: 4/12/2017 10:47:55 AM

 At a very early age, I became interested in Astronomy and I ended up teaching it in high school andcollege.  I got a small telescope when Iwas 12 years old, and the first time I looked at Saturn, it blew my mind how beautiful it was, and I was hooked for life. During all the years I taught it at New Plymouth High, I made sure all the students kept one date on their calendar- August 21, 2017.  It has been on my astro-calendar for decades and it will soon arrive.  The best total solar eclipse of your life is happening throughout the USA this summer.


If you’re an outdoors person, the beauty of our Earth draws you outside to continually explore it.  We’re here to roam the planet in awe of its stunning landscapes bordered by golden sunrises and sunsets.  But what could be the most spectacular event you will ever see in your lifetime is coming soon, and you must plan on being there!


On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross over the entire United States. If you don’t understand why this is such a big deal, you will if you ever go see one.  They all say it’s the most awe-inspiring event anyone could ever witness on this planet.  Most of us are outdoor people,so I wanted to share this coming event with all of you.


First, here’s a little science about eclipses.  A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes directly between the Sun and the Earth. Anytime this happens, the Moon produces two shadows:  the Penumbra and the Umbra.  The Penumbra is the larger, lighter, outershadow, which produces a partial eclipse of the Sun.   The Umbra is the darker, inner shadow, which produces the total eclipse, and it is much smaller.  


It is this Umbra shadow that has everyone talking after it comes and goes.  It approaches at well over 2000 miles an hour much like an impending, dark storm, but there is no noise. When it engulfs you, stars suddenly appear in the sky.  Anyone who has seen it is at a loss of words to explain it to anyone who hasn’t.  I have dreamed about this shadow since I first got interested in Astronomy when I was a just a kid and it’s hard to believe it is almost here.


This is the first total eclipse to be on the US main landsince 1979 and the first to sweep across the entire country since 1918.  There will be another in 2024, but only in the eastern US.  There will be a similar one to the 2017 eclipse in 2045, but why wait that long?  Get out and see this one!  The 2017 total eclipse moves across these states in this order:  Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky,Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  It begins near Newport, Oregon, with totality beginning at 10:15 am PDT.  It ends near McClellanville, South Carolina at 2:49 pm EDT.


There is one thing you have to keep in mind- you must be in the umbra shadow if you want the shock and awe of a total eclipse.  This shadow is only about 60-100 miles wide on the ground, so you must get to it.  The closer you get to the center line of this shadow, the longer the total eclipse will last.  To see a map of each state with this shadow line on it, go to  It also has a list of the exact times the eclipse begins and ends for each city in totality.


The most important item everyone must remember is that you can NEVER look at the Sun during an eclipse with your naked eye if any of the Sun’s bright disk is visible. Even if it is just a sliver of light, it can cause major damage so DO NOT look at the Sun directly with your eyes without protection. There are eclipse viewing glasses available on line if you just search for them, and they are very inexpensive.  Buy one for everyone in your eclipse party!  Welding goggles rated 14 or higher will work just fine and are safe for viewing.  


There are other ways to view an eclipse without watching the Sun itself, like a pinhole camera.  It is easy and uses household items. If you’re interested in how, just surf the web. I would also advise you to read up on eclipses and the related phenomenon associated with them before the big day. An excellent website for that is


When the Sun has been completely blocked out by the moon and totality begins, you can look at it without eye protection, but be wary of how short of time totality is.  On this eclipse, it is only lasting anywhere from 1 to 2 ½ minutes. One thing to notice during blackout is the glow surrounding the Moon.  That is the Sun’s corona, which is the faint, outer atmosphere of the Sun and is only visible during a total solar eclipse. 


Here’s what to do to watch this eclipse.  Remember, you must get in the moon’s umbra shadow as it falls on the Earth.  Try and get as close to the center of the shadow as you can. If you are in an area like Boise, Idaho, where about 98% of the Sun’s disk is covered, you may think that’s good enough, but you will not see the total shadow that leaves everyone breathless.  Since the shadow is moving west to east across the country, get to an area where you have an unobstructed view to the west and you’ll be golden.  The top of a hill or mountain would be ideal so you can see the shadow come and go.


So get your sharpie out and circle the calendar.  I guarantee you will be stunned, much like the ancient civilizations were as they contemplated what was going on.  Oh, and one last thought. There’s something we all need to do as we wait for this special day to arrive- keep our fingers crossed, get out the rabbit’s foot, knock on wood, find a four leaf clover, and pray that on August 21, 2017, the sky will be clear as a bell for the astronomical event of our lives.




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