SKYWATCH By Phillip Virden National Weather Observer for Lake City & Avid Amateur Astronomer with assistance from the National Weather Service, StarDate Magazine, Sky & Telescope Magazine, Earth and Sky, Spaceweather, and the Clear Sky Clock.
THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE
TAKES CENTER STAGE
Lake City Will Have a Partial Eclipse on August 21
For the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse will be viewed only in the United States. On Monday, August 21, the solar eclipse will start its show of 100% totality in Oregon at 11:20 MST and journey across Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and finally ending in South Carolina at approximately 12:50 MST.
Although Lake City and Colorado will not be in the direct path of the eclipse, a nearly 90% partial eclipse will take place from approximately 10:18 a.m. MST to 1:09 p.m. MST with the maximum partial totality taking place in Lake City at about 11:41 a.m. MST.
So, what exactly is a solar eclipse and why does it happen so infrequently?
We are lucky enough on our Planet Earth to have our sun and moon appear almost the same size in our sky. Although the sun is 400 times wider than the moon, it is also about 400 times farther away. And when the new moon passes directly between the Earth and sun, it covers the sun’s disk.
However, due to the Moon’s slightly tilted orbit around Earth, an actual full solar eclipse is a rare event. To have a solar eclipse, the Earth, moon, and sun must be in perfect alignment which is the case on August 21.
To add to this uncommon occasion, to view a full solar eclipse, one must be in the moon’s shadow; a challenge since the moon only casts a small shadow over earth at any given time.
Unfort-unately, Colorado and Lake City are just outside the path of the 2017 solar eclipse which means a partial eclipse will occur here. A partial eclipse occurs when the sun and moon are not exactly in line with the Earth and the moon only partially obscures the sun. This phenomenon can usually be seen from a large part of the Earth outside of the track of an annular or total eclipse. Partial eclipses are virtually unnoticeable in terms of the sun’s brightness, as it takes well over 90% coverage to notice any darkening at all. Still, it will be worth getting out the morning of August 21 to see if there is any kind of darkening phenomenon taking place.
Here is a summary of some viewing notes of the 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse:
• Never look at the Sun with the naked eye. Serious damage to one’s retina can take place.
• To view the sun directly, use certified eclipse safety glasses (available through American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium, Rainbow Symphony, Astronomical Society of the Pacific.). You can also use welder’s goggles, a pin hole projector, or a telescope equipped with a solar filter. For more information check out http://www.nasa.gov/content/eye-safety-during-a-total-solar-eclipse
• The total eclipse will reach maximum length of just over 2 ½ minutes over southern Missouri.
• Weather will play a huge factor for viewing. In Lake City, the long-range forecast for August 21 calls for partly cloudy conditions with afternoon showers likely. (Long range weather forecasts are not a perfect science; better to rely on two to three-day forecasts prior to viewing date). A reliable weather forecast source for Lake City is: www.wunderground.com/us/co/lake-city and www.weather.gov
• There is a lot of science going on during an eclipse. One example is when the moon crosses directly between Earth and the sun. The moon’s dark inner shadow is called the umbra, which is where totality takes place. In Lake City, the lighter outer shadow, the penumbra, will be present for the partial eclipse. Other examples and terminology include “Baily’s Beads” which are caused by light shining through the moon’s valleys), the “Diamond Ring Effect” when the sun is almost completely covered by the moon, and “Totality” when the moon obscures the entire disk of the sun and only the solarcorona is visible.
• During a full eclipse, one may observe peculiar activity by animals and birds, a dip in temperature, and the awe and wonder of daytime becoming nighttime for a few magical seconds.
• Taking a photo of an eclipse can be done but don’t let that get in the way of experiencing the actual event!
• Next solar eclipses in the United States: April 8, 2024 and August 12, 2045 (when the total eclipse will be visible in Colorado).
• SKYWATCH would enjoy hearing your account of your eclipse or partial eclipse experience. Send emails to: email@example.com
An example of the “diamond ring” effect during a solar eclipse; may occur right before or right after totality.
Average high temperature for July 2017 was 77.7 vs 76 historical average.
Warmest day was 86 on the Fourth of July.
Average low temperature for July 2017 was 46.7 vs 44.7 historical average.
Average mean temperature for July 2017 was 62.2.
Total precipitation for July 2017 was 3.27” vs 2.05” historical average.
Most rain in twenty-four-hour period was .82” on July 28/29.
Total Precipitation from January 1 through July 31 – 9.74” vs 6.47” average!
AUGUST NIGHTWATCH CALENDAR
Aug 10-12 – Perseid meteor shower. Usually our best meteor shower of the year. Unfortunately, poor conditions will exist because of a bright waning gibbous Moon.
Aug 21 – Partial solar eclipse for Lake City at 11:40 am!
Aug 21 – Total solar eclipse for Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, & the Carolinas!
Aug 24 – Jupiter and the star Spica will appear close to the Moon at dusk in the west.
Aug 29 – Saturn will appear near the Moon tonight.
Check out Lake City’s weather station & weather cam at KCOLAKEC7 on wunderground.com
And, don’t forget, please turn off your outdoor lights before bedtime – help protect Lake City’s beautiful starry night sky and cut down on your electric bill at the same time!
In an upcoming Silver World issue, SKYWATCH will report on light pollution, what it would mean to have a dark sky designation for the area, the idea of an observatory and/or planetarium in Lake City, and, of course, updates on what to see in the night sky and how our weather is doing.