Total Solar Eclipse in August to be Viewed in Surrounding Area
Area residents will have the chance to experience a rare celestial event later this summer, in the form of total solar eclipse.
The University of Central Missouri and the surrounding community are directly in the path of the first total solar eclipse since 1918, to trek from one United States coast to the other.
According to a press release from UCM, the solar eclipse will take place on Monday, August 21. The total path of the eclipse is approximately 70 miles wide and extends from Oregon to Georgia. This will give people in limited areas across the continental U.S. a combined total of about 90 minutes, to witness what happens when the Earth, moon and sun perfectly align. According to UCM, the last solar eclipse occurred about one year ago in Indonesia.
Depending on where people are located in the coverage pathway, Warrensburg community members who venture outside for the August 2017 eclipse can expect a gradual blocking out of the sun to a maximum of about 99.8 percent, according to Mike Foster, assistant professor of physics at UCM and a participant in the National Solar Observatory’s (NSO) citizen-based Continental America Telescopic Eclipse Experiment (CATE). This will occur as the new moon moves between the sun and the Earth at the perfect distance to obstruct the sunlight. The duration for optimal viewing, however, will be very short – just minutes – and will vary even within the local area.
For those who want to experience the eclipse, Foster cited a timeline available on the international website, eclipse2017.org.
The information on the website says that, ‘the eclipse will start at 11:43 a.m. in Warrensburg, and will reach its peak at 1:11 p.m. Then the sun will be completely exposed again at 4:38 p.m.’
Because the large metropolitan areas of Kansas City and St. Louis are located on the path as it angles across Missouri, the state is uniquely positioned as one of the most highly populated areas to have an opportunity to view the eclipse.
For Foster and other UCM colleagues, Mohammad “Mo” Basir, assistant professor of science education, and Monty Laycox, instructor of physics, the eclipse also offers an opportunity to get involved in scientific research. They will travel to Marshall, MO, a city uniquely positioned in the center of the eclipse path, as participants in the NSO’s Citizen CATE Experiment. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and is expected to draw a number of academicians, high school groups, and citizens to the Marshall area. They will converge on the city park, which is one site in a nationwide network of 60 locations across the solar eclipse path, where people will be using the same model telescopes and digital cameras to research the sun.
“So with clear weather, we will have 90 minutes of continental images across the U.S. and that will give us more images of the sun’s corona than have ever been accumulated before,” said Foster.
He noted that efforts also are underway to provide viewing opportunities on the UCM campus, utilizing broad band- full-spectrum telescopes, and telescopes that can specifically allow people to look at hydrogen emissions during the eclipse. Such activities are still being finalized, and will be conducted with safety as a priority. Foster stressed that individuals who plan to attend this event or view on their own need to be aware of ways to protect their eyes from harmful sun rays.
“Looking at the sun, you expose your eyes to a lot of ultraviolet and infrared (radiation), and of course the eye can’t detect any of those,” Foster said. “So, there are things you can do about it. You can make a pinhole shadowbox, that will allow you to project the sun onto something that you can look at and see its shape. That is completely safe.”
Additionally, there are inexpensive cardboard frame glasses made specifically for looking at an eclipse, and will filter out the harmful sun rays.
Foster discourages people from using tools like welding masks and goggles for viewing, because most do not keep out the harmful radiation that can harm their eyes. Foster said many of these safety tips are available at eclipse2017.nso.edu/citizencate.
“We’d like to give as many people an opportunity to see the eclipse as we can, but we feel a responsibility to make sure that it be done safely, and we want to make sure they know which way to do it before the event,” Foster said.
For more information on the solar eclipse, visit eclipse2017.nso.edu.