July 29, 2017: My Obligatory Eclipse Post – GET TO TOTALITY!

As you must know by now unless you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave (say hi to Plato for me!), all of North America will be in the path of a solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017, just three weeks from now.  An approximately 70-mile-wide swath extending clear across the continent, from Oregon to South Carolina, will experience totality, while the rest of the continent will experience varying degrees of a partial eclipse, depending on how far you are from that swath.

I haven’t really addressed the eclipse here in the blog since everyone and their brother has already posted all sorts of useful information all over the web about it.  I’m not going to repeat any of that, because it’s all been said already.  So I will keep this very short and sweet.

Before I go on, yes, be safe, do not look directly at the sun even if it’s only 1% present because it will still burn your eyeballs out and blind you.  Use only approved eclipse glasses, use only approved solar filters on your scope, blah, blah, blah.  (I’m not pooh-poohing safety, but this has all been covered everywhere else on the web ad nauseam.)

Getting to the entire point of this post, as Sorin, a member of my astroclub, is fond of saying in his EclipseKit, GET TO TOTALITY!  

Maybe you’re thinking of staying put because you can see 90%, 95%, or even 99%, and that’s gotta be enough, right?  Well, that just won’t cut it.  

It’s like you can’t be a little bit dead, or a little bit pregnant.  There is no comparison between a high-percentage partial eclipse and a total eclipse.  It’s all or nothing.

The difference between 90% and 100% is literally the difference between night and day. You won’t see the stars or planets come out.  You won’t hear the birds and animals and insects as they get ready to go to sleep for the “night”.  You won’t see the shadow of the moon racing across the ground towards you at FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES AN HOUR. You won’t see a 360-degree sunset.  You won’t feel the temperature drop as the sun is covered over.  You won’t see Baily’s Beads. You won’t see the diamond ring effect. And you especially won’t see the corona.  

Image may contain: night and sky
The sun’s corona, which is only ever visible during a TOTAL ECLIPSE.  No, not 90%, 95%, or even 99%.  And it looks even more magnificent than this in real life, because our eyes capture more dynamic range than a photo can.

Whatever you do, DON’T STAY PUT in a non-100% area.  It’s one thing if you can’t get time off work, or if the trip is too far for you to make. Then, sure, of course, stay where you are, see what you can see from there.  Get out and have a look for a few minutes before and after the maximum eclipse.  If you’re in a “close, but no cigar” area, you’ll still be able to see the shadows cast from tree leaves become crescents, which is still really cool.

Image result for eclipse crescent shadows
Okay, how cool is this?!?  And remember, if you forget to take a look at this before the eclipse, you can always look after the eclipse, too!

But if you already live where it’s greater than 90%, if you’re in Cincinnati or Indianapolis or Louisville or Little Rock or Memphis or Raleigh-Durham or Birmingham or Atlanta or Charlotte or Jacksonville or Des Moines or Wichita or Omaha or Denver or Salt Like City or Portland or Seattle, GET TO TOTALITY. By hook or by crook, steal, rape, or pillage, whatever you gotta do, get yourself there.  It will be well worth it.  

And no, you don’t have to get to any particular city, you don’t have to get all the way to the centerline, you don’t even have to get all that deep into the totality swath.  Yes, the interstates are expected to turn into parking lots, so avoid them at all costs.  Use your GPS to take back roads.  Allow almost double the time Google maps is telling you it’ll take to get there.

Just get to anywhere inside that totality stripe, pull off the road ANYWHERE, park, and watch.  If it’s your first eclipse (like it will be mine), don’t even bother taking pictures.  There will only be a few million of them on the web.  Instead, spend your time enjoying the awe-inspiring spectacle rather than fiddling with your phone.

GET TO TOTALITY.  And enjoy!

 

 

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