Total Solar Eclipse – August 21, 2017

EclipseOn Monday, August 21, 2017, the most exciting thing is going to happen in the United States.  At Total Solar Eclipse is going to pass entirely across the country passing directly through central Nebraska.  This will not happen again in this region for several hundred years, so we only have one chance to view it.

A Solar Eclipse occurs only during a new moon and only when the moon passes directly between the Sun and the Earth.   Because the moon is so much closer to the earth than the Sun, it can actually block out the sun for a short period of time causing it to be as dark as a moonlit night.   Animals will react as though it were night and lights that automatically come on at night will come on.

Eclipse mapBecause the earth rotates on its axis, the path of totality begins on the west coast of the US and travels in a southeasterly direction across the US. In 2017, the eclipse viewing starts in Oregon, then crosses the United States, and finishes far out to sea beyond the South Carolina coast. Along the way, people will be treated to the spectacle that only happens when the moon passes in front of the sun.  Of course, clouds would be the worst thing that could happen on that day.   Because central Nebraska has nearly a 75% average of clear skies on August 21st, the chances are great that we will have a clear day.   There are also many viewing locations that allow a horizon to horizon viewing area with very few objects such as trees to affect the view.

When the eclipse happens, day turns to night. It’s an eerie time. In the morning in Oregon, afternoon in South Carolina, the sun will be blotted from the sky, but only for lucky observers. The moon casts a shadow onto the surface of the Earth, but it’s narrow. It’s only about 70 miles across. You HAVE to be in the shadow area to experience totality, the brief period of time when the sun is fully eclipsed.

If you are outside the zone of totality, even a little, you won’t see the amazing total solar eclipse. It will get pretty dark, maybe, but the stunning effects will miss you. These include the amazing corona, the superheated atmosphere of the sun. This wispy solar feature is normally invisible as the light of the sun overpowers it. You’ll also miss the chilling effect when the moon blots out the sun.

Total Solar EclipseOn August 21, 2017, you MUST be in the zone of totality. There are many locations along the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway hosting eclipse viewing events.

Where will you be? 

These local communities will be happy to help you plan your eclipse itinerary: Alliance, NETryon, NEStapleton, NENorth Platte, NEGrand Island, NE.

 

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Never look directly at the sun especially at the time of any part of an eclipse without proper eye protection.   The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can burn the retina of the eye causing vision loss or total blindness.

There are five phases of a Total Solar Eclipse:

1)  PARTIAL ECLIPSE BEGINS (first contact); The moon’s shadow starts becoming visible over the sun’s disc – looks like a bite has been taken out of the sun.

Phases2)  FULL ECLIPSE BEGINS (second contact); Almost the entire disc of the sun is covered by the moon.   Observers in the path of the moon’s umbra may be able to see Baily’s beads and the diamond ring effect.

3)  MAXIMUM ECLIPSE OR TOTALITY; The moon completely covers the disc of the sun. Only the sun’s corona is visible.   This is the most dramatic stage of a total solar eclipse. At this time, the sky goes dark, temperatures fall drastically, and birds/animals often go quiet.

4)  FULL ECLIPSE ENDS (third contact); The moon’s shadow starts moving away and the sun reappears.

5)  PARTIAL ECLIPSE ENDS (fourth contact); The moon stops overlapping the sun’s disc. The eclipse ends at this stage.

Special sights — only certain phenomenon can be seen during a total eclipse.

1)  BAILY’S BEADS — Seen about 10 – 15 seconds before and after totality.   Baily’s beads are little bead like blobs of light on the edge of the moon.   These happen because the gaps in the mountains and valleys on the moon’s surface allow sunlight to pass through in some places but not in others.

2)  DIAMOND RING — As the moon moves to cover the entire disc of the sun,  Bailys beads disappear leaving one last bead a few seconds before totality.  At this point in the eclipse,  the sun’s corona forms a ring around the moon.  The ring around the moon and the leftover Baily’s bead give the appearance of a diamond ring.

3)  THE SUN’S CHROMOSHPERE — The sun’s atmosphere has three layers;  the photosphere, the chromosphere, and the corona.   The chromosphere, which gives out a reddish glow can only be seen for a few seconds right after the diamond ring disappears during a total eclipse.

4)  THE SUN’S CORONA — Like the chromosphere, the sun’s corona is only visible during a total solar eclipse.   It can be seen as a faint ring of rays surrounding the dark moon during totality.

5)  SHADOW BANDS — About one minute before and after totality, moving wavy lines of alternating light and dark can be seen on plain-colored surfaces.   These shadow bands are the result of the light emitted from a thin solar crescent being refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere.