Where will you be for this year’s solar eclipse? I’ll be flying and above any clouds somewhere between Alberta and Ontario Canada Monday, August 21st, so I better book a window seat. While the solar eclipse will be visible to most of us in North America, the path of totality where you get the full effect, will stretch right across the USA. This relatively thin ribbon, around 70 miles wide, will cross from west to east. NASA visualizer Ernie Wright has created an accurate video representation of the eclipse (below). It shows something never seen before: the true, time-varying shape of the moon’s shadow, with the effects of both an accurate lunar limb and the Earth’s terrain. “We couldn’t have done visualizations like this even 10 years ago,” Wright said. “This is a confluence of increasing computing power and new datasets from remote sensing platforms like LRO and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.”
The first point of contact will be at Salem, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Over the next 90 minutes, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North & South Carolina. The total eclipse will end in the US at Charleston at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Its longest duration will be at Carbondale, Illinois. Hotels along the path are already heavily booked. Georgia’s Beechwood Inn offers a 3 night package for the Great American Eclipse. It includes a Celestial Wine Reception, Safety Viewing Glasses, T-Shirt and Eclipse Map. Sparkling Wine Orange Aperol Sun Aperitif will be served as the Eclipse starts in Clayton, GA. The cost of the package is $1,773.82. While many of the areas along the path are privately-held, many state and national parks will be open although parking may be a serious problem. The most fitting of which I think would be at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Forest, Idaho. It’s a rare event and after this one, the next total solar eclipse visible over the continental United States will be on April 8, 2024, visible from Texas to Maine.
Along with the usual safety messages about not looking directly at the sun, NASA also warns: “There is no evidence that eclipses have any physical effect on humans. However, eclipses have always been capable of producing profound psychological effects. For millennia, solar eclipses have been interpreted as portents of doom by virtually every known civilization. These have stimulated responses that run the gamut from human sacrifices to feelings of awe and bewilderment. Although there are no direct physical effects involving known forces, the consequences of the induced human psychological states have indeed led to physical effects.” NASA goes on to say that a solar eclipse can change how you feel and is encouraging you to dance (rather than sacrifice anyone) and share a video saying: “a total solar eclipse changes how you feel and that is unique for each person, so dance and make the dance your own. During the total solar eclipse capture a short video of yourself, or you with others, doing that original dance inspired by the eclipse. Keep it to less than one minute. You don’t need music or even hum a tune, just dance. The fun is in the dance of your own creation. Avoid any kind of copyrighted music or materials in the background that would prevent us from posting your video.” You can submit your video to their Flickr site using the Keyword “Dancing Along the Path” with your name, viewing location and additional comment, so they can give you full credit. A selfie might be easier for those not so ‘changed’ which you can easily add on Instagram by using #EclipseSelfie. Another weird thing is that sunlight from a partial solar eclipse funnels through tree leaves to project images of “crescents” on the ground.
In Carly Simon’s song You’re so Vain, she sings “. . . you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun”, she refers to the March 7, 1970 total solar eclipse. There was a later ‘Nova Scotia’ eclipse on July 10, 1972, (the last total solar eclipse seen in North America) but Simon’s song came out in 1971. Who the song was about remains a mystery. Three years ago, Simon promoting her memoir said, “I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren (Beatty)” and added that while “Warren thinks the whole thing is about him, he is the subject only of that verse. The remainder of the song refers to two other still-unnamed men.” In 2003 she agreed to reveal the name of the song’s subject to the highest bidder at a charity auction. With the top bid of $50,000, Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports, won the right to know the name but a condition of the prize was that he not reveal it.
AN APP FOR THAT
If you’d like to know what it will look like from where you live, use NASA’s Eyes on the 2017 Eclipse App, an interactive, 3D simulation of the total eclipse where a split-screen view will appear showing a view of the Earth on the left side and a view of the sun from your selected location on the right side. You can select a location either by clicking directly on the Earth or by clicking the “Custom” button and entering the latitude and longitude. Once you’ve chosen a location, you can then watch a simulation of what the eclipse would look like from that area from start to finish.