By Diana Alcantara, board member
and Will Grandbois, staff
The Aug. 21 total eclipse of the heart — er, sun — is shaping up to be one of the most talked about astronomical events in most locals’ lifetimes. And while the Great American Eclipse, as it’s been dubbed, won’t be total over Carbondale (Colorado, that is — our Illinois counterpart is on the path), we’re still looking at more than 90 percent coverage. That’s comparable to the annular eclipse we experienced in May 2012. That time, the moon was too distant from the earth to mask the sun completely anywhere, which apparently will be the norm in about 500 million years, as the moon’s orbit will move it away from earth at a rate of 4cm per year.
Luckily, we’ll have our own chance to view totality well before then — on Aug. 12, 2045. If you don’t want to wait that long but can’t get off work this year, you might start making plans for April 8, 2024. That total solar eclipse will pass over Dallas, Indianapolis and Cleveland, but we recommend getting a passport and hanging out on the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Anyway, The Sopris Sun has compiled some information to help folks to have the best experience whether they’re sticking around here or making the trip up to Wyoming.
Q: What is a total solar eclipse?
A: A total solar eclipse occurs when the disk of the moon completely covers the disk of the sun in the sky. The fact that total solar eclipses occur at all is a quirk of cosmic geometry. The moon orbits an average of 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) from Earth — just the right distance to seem the same size in the sky as the much-larger sun. However, these heavenly bodies line up only about once every 18 months.
Q: What will you see in Carbondale?
A: Here in Bonedale we will see a partial solar eclipse at .9 magnitude. (That means that 92% of the sun will be blocked by the moon passing in front of it.) The eclipse begins at 10:23 a.m., peaks at 11:47 a.m., and ends at 1:14 p.m. You can see an animated version of how it will look on www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/denver, and for live coverage on the day of. You can also tune into live coverage at the NASA website.
Q: Where can I go to watch with others?
A: In Carbondale, meet up at Bonnie Fisher Park on the south side of the Third Street Center near the bread oven. If you happen to have a pair of proper ISO-Certified glasses, please bring them! The Sopris Sun will have kids activities, materials to make a pinhole solar viewer, and offer a chance to crawl into our high-tech custom viewing chamber (aka a giant cardboard box).
Q: I’m thinking of making the trip to Wyoming. How should I prepare?
A: Some NASA representatives predict that Aug. 21, 2017, may be one of the worst traffic days in national history. Although about 12 million people live within the narrow band of totality, approximately 25 million reside within a day’s drive of it, and the agency has estimated that the population inside the path of totality may double on the day of the eclipse.
With that in mind, make sure you plan for extra travel time. Most hotel rooms inside the path of totality have been booked for months or years, so finding a place at this point is probably impossible. Authorities are advising to keep in mind your proximity to food, water, parking and facilities when selecting a location to view the eclipse. If you’ve already experienced the delays getting through Glenwood, well, the whole state of Wyoming may be one giant Midland Avenue jam!
Q: When will the total solar eclipse occur, and how long will it last?
A: The timing of the total solar eclipse and its duration both depend on where you are inside the path of totality. At most, the moon will completely cover the disk of the sun for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. As you move toward the edge of the path, the duration of totality will decrease. People standing at the very edge of the path may observe totality for only a few seconds. It will not be safe to look at the eclipsed sun here in Carbondale without eye protection!
Q: What deeper meaning could someone find in all this?
A: The Eclipse next week occurs in the sign of Leo and is being seen by some as a chance to push the personal reset button. In astrology, the sign of Leo is ruled by the Sun. One way to understand this Eclipse is to consider the symbolism behind the Sun. The Sun represents light, but it also represents ego. The ego self is easily seen under the light of the Sun, but our deeper, more hidden self relates to the light of the Moon. As the Moon moves across the Sun and eclipses it, many see it as an opportunity to transform the ego self and allow our deeper essence to be exposed.
Q: What else should I know about the days before the eclipse?
A: Considering that there was a partial lunar eclipse last week with the full moon, and the solar eclipse is Monday, it may feel like we are suspended in an energetic time warp. Some astrologers are interpreting this as a time to clean out the cobwebs of what is no longer is working. These days leading up to the eclipse you may feel the urge to purge, maybe clean out the front hall closet or take on the garage. This could be attributed to your own intuition preparing to “clean out the junk”, literally! Don’t worry – it’s all part of the cosmic invitation for new beginnings, which means letting the old stuff move on.