A total eclipse of the sun is one of Nature's most stunning experiences. The sunlight fades, the sky grows dark, the air turns cold, and eventually the sun disappears altogether for a few minutes. It's twilight all around the horizon, the brighter stars are out, and the darkest spot in the sky is where the sun is supposed to be and it's not there anymore! The whole universe feels upside down, inside out. Is it any wonder that people through the millennia have been in awe of such a spectacle?
On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible in the continental United States for the first time in almost 40 years. This total eclipse will only be visible on a narrow track stretching across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. No other country will get to see the total eclipse this time. The rest of the United States (including Southern California) and other parts of North and Central America will see a partial eclipse, in which the Moon covers only a portion of the Sun.
How often does this happen? Come to Crowell Public Library on Monday, June 26th at 7:00 p.m. to hear astronomer Bill Owen from JPL talk about this exciting event, what to expect and how to be prepared. With any luck, nobody will be silly enough to look directly at the sun except during totality itself. It is even more dangerous to look at the partially eclipsed sun, because the eyes dilate and let in more light than normal, and staring at the sun under normal conditions isn't safe. It is definitely not safe to use regular sunglasses or blackened photographic film. At this Crowell Library event, a limited number of special “door prizes” will be handed out for the “viewing” audience.
Bill Owen is an astronomer and navigation engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has worked on missions from Voyager to New Horizons, visiting vicariously all of the outer planets and a handful of asteroids and comets. He has traveled to total solar eclipses in Waycross GA (1970, cloudy) and San Jose del Cabo MX (1991, beautifully clear). And he hopes to go to Oregon in August.