An astronomical event of a lifetime is coming this summer. On August 21, there will be a total solar eclipse, the first on US mainland since 1979. The path of totality will fall along a 70-mile wide path from Oregon to South Carolina.
This time, eclipse enthusiasts won't have to travel to Mongolia or the Pacific Ocean for this breathtaking sight. Kansas City is along the path of totality. So is Carbondale, IL.
In Chicago, the visibility is going to be 85% -- which is still amazing.
A total solar eclipse occurs about every 18 months. For a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. For a viewer on Earth, it appears that the moon is covering the sun. The outer atmosphere of the sun, the corona, is still visible, and it is an astonishing visual display.
You will need special solar filters--glasses or binoculars-- to view the eclipse. It is not safe to look directly at the sun.
Several places have eclipse glasses for sale. NASA has a safety guide for viewing and some recommendations. You can read more here.
What happens during a total eclipse of the sun? The sky goes dark, and darker. The temperature drops. Animals behave as if it is twilight. No doubt, our human ancestors felt fear and uncertainty. Is this the end of the world? What happened to the sun? Will it come back again?
Those who understood the patterns of such celestial events had powerful knowledge. An eclipse of the moon or the sun still evokes a sense of awe and wonder at something larger than ourselves.
I will be writing more about this eclipse in the days to come. In the meantime, you can read about a lunar eclipse here.