2017-08-16 / Front Page

Eclipse is ‘great opportunity’


Next Monday (August 21) brings to us Letcher Countians a great opportunity to see a total eclipse of the sun, perhaps the best opportunity in the remainder of most of our lives.

The umbra (area of darkness) of this solar eclipse enters the United States through Oregon and travels southeastward. It passes through Missouri, western Kentucky, central and southeastern Tennessee, the southwestern corner of North Carolina, and exits the United States through central South Carolina. According to a NASA web site, the total eclipse will travel completely across the United States in about 100 minutes.

At any moment during the solar eclipse, the umbra crossing Kentucky and Tennessee will be roughly circular in shape and approximately 70 miles in diameter. In western Kentucky, the center of this umbra enters the state north of Smithland Tennessee-North Carolina border about four miles south of the Cherohala Skyway. It continues on through Andrews, N.C.

According to the NASA web site, the total eclipse will last about 2 minutes and 40 seconds along the umbra’s central path. Observers a short distance from this path will not notice a significant decrease in the length of time of darkness. People 10 miles from the central path will still experience 2½ minutes of daytime darkness. However, people farther from the central path will experience a noticeably shorter total eclipse. People 20 miles from the central path of the umbra will see a total eclipse lasting only 2 minutes. The length of time decreases rapidly as the distance over 20 miles away increases.

Scientists give the time of the eclipse in Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) which was called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) before 1972. If the scientists’ UTC has been deciphered correctly, the total eclipse will occur around 2:24 p.m. EDT (1:24 CDT) in Hopkinsville and about 2:33 p.m. EDT in southeastern Tennessee. For those along the umbra’s central path, the partial eclipse begins about 1½ hours before the total eclipse and ends about the same length of time following the total eclipse. Everyone in the United States will have at least a partial eclipse to view that afternoon. It has been calculated that the moon will hide 95 percent of the sun from viewers here in Letcher County.

NASA strongly emphasizes the importance of having the proper equipment to view the solar eclipse. Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness! Its website https:// eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety states:

“The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special purpose solar filters, such as ‘eclipse glasses’ or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.”

Inexpensive eclipse glasses have special safety filters that appear similar to sunglasses, but these do permit safe viewing. Be sure that the solar eclipse glasses and hand held solar viewers that you use meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products. They need to be European Conformity (CE) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certified with an optical density 5 or greater to be safe to use during the solar eclipse. Made in the U.S.A. is also a plus.

Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17 were the first four companies to meet the international standard. However, a quick check on amazon.com shows that there are eclipse glasses made by other companies advertised as being CE and/or ISO certified.

Paper framed eclipse glasses, made very much like the 3-D glasses that came in 3-D comics years ago (Did I just date myself?), can be purchased from the above named companies for a buck or so, plus the dreaded S&H. These eclipse glasses often are sold in packages, for example: 5 for $7.50 or 25 for $21.85. More expensive ($20 + S&H) plastic framed wrap-around eclipse glasses can be purchased. Plastic framed eclipse glasses that fit over your regular glasses are also available at that price. Both come with two free pairs of paper framed eclipse glasses.

Additional advice on the NASA web site includes:

“Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun. … do not stare continuously at the sun. ”

“Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.”

On the web site http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/rural kentucky-solar-eclipse-preparation town-busy-48319907, Brooke Jung, Hopkinsville’s city eclipse coordinator, describes what to expect while viewing the total eclipse:

“It’ll look like twilight outside. You’ll be able to see stars. Four planets will be visible — Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. You’ll notice the temperature drop about 5 to 10 degrees. Animals will get a little disoriented. Birds will think that it’s nighttime and go in to roost. Some of the flowers and plants that close up at night will close up.”

Most hotels in the path of the umbra have long been booked solid. However, we Letcher Countians live close enough to the total eclipse area that we could drive there that Monday morning. That is, if the highways between here and there are not so congested with other people trying to find a place to view the eclipse that travel will be at a snail’s space or even slower. A web site reported that Hopkinsville requested the National Guard to help with traffic control in the rural areas of their county.

If you should travel to view the total eclipse, you might want to park away from night lights that will turn on during the darkness of the eclipse. An ideal location would be on a lone boat on the lower portion of Watts Bar Lake in southeastern Tennessee or on the northern end of Kentucky Lake in western Kentucky. But the “lone boat” part ain’t going to happen!

If you miss the August 21 total eclipse, then the next best opportunity will be April 8, 2024, but you will have to travel farther to see it. The latter total eclipse enters the United States through Texas and travels northeast across southern Missouri, southern Illinois, central Indiana, and northwestern Ohio before exiting the United States through Maine.

Although total eclipses occur somewhere in the world every year, they do not occur nearly that often in any one country. After the April 8, 2024, total eclipse, the next three total eclipses in the continental United States occur on August 12, 2045, March 30, 2052, and May 11, 2078. Book your hotel now!

Sources: https://eclipse2017. nasa.gov/ http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/ wireStory/rural-kentuckysolar eclipse-preparation-townbusy 48319907 https:// en. wikipedia.org/ wiki/List_ of_ solar_ eclipses_ in_ the_ 21st_ century

Official Highway Maps of Kentucky and Tennessee

Tony Blair is a retired math teacher living at Jeremiah.

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