Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Night Sky

Turn off or shield your outside lights downward 
Left unshielded, they ruin the starry night sky and annoy your neighbors. Light glare going upward doesn’t help deter crime. Keep the night sky available for everyone.

July 2017 night sky

—Charlie Christmann

The big show:

August 21 is the big day; the first total eclipse to grace the lower 48 states since February 26, 1979. In 1979, only five states in the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains enjoyed totality. This eclipse catches 14 states; unfortunately, New Mexico is south of the swath of totality. If you plan on staying at home, northern New Mexico should see about eighty percent of the sun covered by the moon about 11:45 a.m. Don’t forget to protect your eyes—even this small sliver of sun will damage your eyes.

If you want to experience this awe-inspiring event in its totality, you and an estimated seven million of your fellow watchers will be traveling to catch a glimpse of night during the day. If you don’t already have hotel reservations or a tour booked, your best bet is to go RVing to the area or camp in a crowded campsite. Almost everything else is booked. To help you plan your eclipse road trip in August, I trolled the internet for maps and predictions to help you find your perfect site.

This eclipse’s path of totality begins in the northwest. The centerline of the eclipse will make landfall at Lincoln Beach and Depoe Bay in Oregon, with total darkness lasting a short one minute and 58 seconds. Racing east southeast, the moon’s shadow passes Salem at 10:17 a.m. PDT. Ontario is the last city to experience totality in Oregon for one minute, 23 seconds at 11:25 a.m. MDT. Idaho is next in line where Idaho Falls is a bit south of the centerline, but still enjoys full darkness for one minute 49 seconds at 11:33 a.m. MDT. Montana only catches a tiny piece of the total eclipse, a measly eight square miles. Forget Montana to see the eclipse. Other cities near the centerline are Stanley and Rexburg.

Wyoming is a great choice, as the eclipse cuts across the entire state. The southern part of Grand Teton National Park is one of the best places in the entire country to view this event. There you can enjoy two minutes and twenty seconds of totality at about 11:35 a.m. MDT. Casper enjoys two minutes, 26 seconds of totality at 11:42 a.m. MDT. Note: Yellowstone is outside the path of totality. Other choices include Jackson, Pavilion, and Douglas.

Prime viewing can be had in Nebraska, sporting some of the longest totality time in the country. Good targets are Alliance (two minutes and thirty seconds at 11:49 a.m. CDT), Scottsbluff (one minute, 43 seconds at 11:48 a.m.), and North Platte (one minute, forty seconds at 12:54 p.m.). You might also consider Stapleton, Grand Island and Falls City. Beatrice will have two minutes and 35 seconds of totality at 1:02 p.m.

Anyone heading to Kansas will need to scurry to the northeast corner of the state. Troy is directly on the centerline of the eclipse and will see darkness for 2 minutes 38 seconds at 1:05:55pm CDT. Other options with two-plus minutes include Atchison, Hiawatha, and Seneca. Leavenworth will experience about a minute-and-a-half.

If you think Idaho is short changed, check Iowa. Less than five hundred acres will see the total eclipse.

Farther away from us, good Missouri locals include St. Joseph, Marshall, Columbia, and Union. St. Clair will enjoy a whopping two minutes and forty seconds of totality at 1:15 p.m. The southern tip is the place to be in Illinois, including Murphysboro and (two minutes forty seconds at 1:19 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. respectively); Carbondale and Marion are also excellent choices. Kentucky’s western side is eclipse central for this state. Hopkinsville lies right on the centerline, and enjoys two minutes forty seconds of totality at 1:24 p.m. CDT. Paducah, Franklin and Russellville also afford good viewing.

A large swath of central Tennessee will enjoy this eclipse, including Nashville, which just inside the moon’s shadow. Better locations are Clarksville at 1:25 p.m., Westmoreland and Crossville at 1:31 p.m. CDT. Perhaps the best viewing in Tennessee will be on I-40 at the rest stop just west of the Buffalo Valley exit. It is on the centerline. For North Carolina, the shadow only skirts the southern edge, but if you like camping, check out the western part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Alternate locations are Murphy 2:34 p.m., Andrews, and Franklin.

Only the northeastern edge of Georgia will experience totality, sorry Atlanta. While Clayton will have the best view, Blairsville and Toccoa will see totality. Greenville, South Carolina will get totality at 2:38 p.m. EDT, but Spartanburg will just barely miss out. However, Lexington is a great choice. The eclipse will exit into the Atlantic Ocean near McClellanville, SC. The last of the shadow departs land at 2:49 p.m. EDT, leaving a long strip of a sandy barrier island.

On average, the path of totality is 68 miles wide and will stretch 2,500 miles across the U.S. traveling at supersonic speed, about one mile every two seconds. The whole show, coast to coast is only an hour and 33 minutes long.

Of course, our viewing pleasure is at the mercy of Mother Nature and the weather. If you plan to chase the eclipse, definitely check the weather forecast for your chosen location. But if you do miss this eclipse, the next chance close to home will be in 2019 in South America. As for the U.S., our next total eclipse is on April 8 of 2024 from Texas to Maine.

See the Night Sky monthly viewing chart below.

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