Getting Ready For The Total Solar Eclipse In Nebraska

Originally posted on: http://netnebraska.org/article/news/1090194/getting-ready-total-solar-eclipse-nebraska 

Getting Ready For The Total Solar Eclipse In Nebraska

by Ariana Brocious, NET News

NASA Interactive Map of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. (Map image courtesy NASA and Google)

August 17, 2017 - 6:45am

On Monday, much of the continental U.S. will experience the first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years. Nebraska is one of the best places to see it.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, casting its shadow across a part of the globe. But the earth is big, and much of it is covered by water:

“So most of the time when once of these eclipses occur they're not at a convenient location to get to,” said Dan Claes, chair of the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While partial solar eclipses happen a few times a year, for the sun and moon to line up exactly is even less common, Claes said. And this year, we’re especially lucky.

“To have it occur, basically in your own backyard, where all you have to do is waltz outside to see it, that's something very special,” Claes said. “And that can be decades and even hundreds of years from the occurrence of one to the next.”

Claes hasn’t seen a total solar eclipse, but said witnessing a partial one was powerful enough. The birds quieted as the sky grew darker.

“And that hush, together with the ever so slight dimming of the skies alone was almost like a religious experience to me. And the prospect of having that moment being utter darkness, I think will be very exciting,” he said.

That’s the magic that awaits those in the so-called path of totality, a 70-mile wide stretch of the moon’s shadow. The total eclipse will last around three hours, but unlike dawn or dusk, Claes said we won’t notice the increasingly darkening sky for most of it.

“But when we get within a few minutes of totality, then we'll realize that something actually is happening and when it suddenly happens we'll have this minute and a half where it's dark. And it'll get dark like night. The stars will come out,” Claes said.

Totality—the time when the sun is completely blocked by the moon—will start in western Nebraska around 11:47 a.m. MT, and end in eastern Nebraska around 1:07 p.m. CT. During the couple minutes of totality, we can observe the sun like few of us have before.

“When the moon comes in and eclipses the orb of the sun itself, we will see the illumination of its surrounding atmosphere. What that will look like is sometimes described as a ring of fire, so we'll see this fiery little ring. If there are any eruptions on the surface of the sun, we will also see those dancing around that ring,” Claes said.

By now, you probably know about the total solar eclipse. Perhaps you’ve already made plans for watching it. But if you haven’t—don’t worry. Nebraskans will have some of the best viewing opportunities right here at home.

From Scottsbluff to Falls City, communities across the state have spent the last year gearing up for eclipse-related events. Carhenge in Alliance will have a pop up planetarium and a pow wow. Scottsbluff and Gering will host a car show, beer and wine festival and laser show. North Platte offers yoga and a tapping of a special beer. Hastings’ Solfest is a multiday festival including local music and art. Lincoln will have a science fair and Salt Dogs baseball game.

Like many other Nebraska eclipse destinations, Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice has a range of events planned the weekend preceding the eclipse itself. 

“We have folks with NASA and Dr. Amy Mainzer with Ready Jet Go. The Many Moccasin Dance Troupe from the Winnebago tribe of Nebraska. So we have a great lineup of programs,” said Mark Engler, park superintendent.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to the path of totality in Nebraska.

“People are realizing that this is way beyond a bucket list kind of thing,” said John Ricks, executive director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission. While he said they don’t have estimates on the number of people expected to visit the state or the potential economic impact, it’s going to be big. At a recent news conference, Governor Pete Ricketts said it could be the biggest single-day tourism event in Nebraska history.

“The buzz has increased significantly in the last 2 to 3 weeks and it continues to grow. And every day we get closer the more excited people get,” Ricks said.

Are you excited yet? If so, here are some tips for safe eclipse viewing:

  • Don’t look directly at the sun without proper eyewear. And sunglasses aren’t enough—you need special eclipse glasses.
  • If you’re traveling to see the eclipse, leave early and give yourself plenty of time. Bring paper maps in case cell phone service is overloaded or spotty.
  • Be a safe driver. Don’t wear eclipse glasses while driving, don’t stop on the side of the road to watch or take photographs, and be prepared for a lot of traffic and eclipse watchers.
  • Dress appropriately for mid-August and bring water, snacks, and chairs with you, as well as a full tank of gas.
  • More tips from NASA, including their interactive map and how to build your own solar eclipse viewer

Listen for an NET News eclipse special from Beatrice Monday morning just after 8 CT on NET Radio. And share photos and videos of your eclipse experience on the Nebraska Stories Facebook page to contribute to a future Nebraska Stories episode.