(Inside Science) -- If you haven’t heard about the total solar eclipse coming to America this summer -- then perhaps you’ve been in the dark.
“I did not know there was going to be a total solar eclipse, I just learned about it five minutes ago and I’m pretty excited now,” said Luke Mouton, a student at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.
This summer, millions of people will get a chance to see an amazing celestial phenomenon -- a huge part of the U.S. will plunge into darkness during a total solar eclipse August 21. A partial solar eclipse will move across the rest of the continental United States. There are relatively few cities, in 12 states from Oregon to South Carolina, that will be in the narrow path of the total solar eclipse. By now, most hotel rooms have sold out, and eclipse parties, festivals and viewing events are scheduled. But there’s still a chance to book a trip to a nearby city.
“The eclipse is coming to Columbia, Missouri, we are almost dead center in the middle of the path,” said Jonathan Sessions, owner of Gravity, an Apple-authorized service provider business.
“On the actual day of the eclipse, we’re hoping to have two separate viewing events. One that is more for the casual eclipse enthusiast, so someone can bring their kids, they can learn about the eclipse, and also listen to music and do different activities. And then also more of a hard-core enthusiast can have their equipment setup in a different activity zone,” said Megan McConachie of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
If weather conditions work out, viewers will witness the shimmering solar corona, or outer atmosphere of the sun, become visible in a twilight-blue sky. Animals may think it’s time to prepare for nightfall, and you’ll even be able to see Venus, Jupiter and a few bright stars in the daytime. “The thing about a solar eclipse is it’s probably the most tangible and impressive thing you can see,” said Angela Speck, professor and director of astronomy at the University of Missouri in Columbia. One of the few cities that lie in the path of totality, Columbia, Missouri, will get about two minutes and 35 seconds of darkness. The last total solar eclipse to even come close to Columbia was in 1442 in Saint Louis -- for many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. So, don’t miss it -- but remember to be safe!
“I think most people know, but they need to be reminded that you should never just look at the sun without some sort of protection. However, during a total eclipse, when we’re actually in the dark time, when the moon is completely covering the sun, it’s safe. It’s no more dangerous than looking at the full moon. But up until that point, as the moon is moving into place, if we want to watch the partial phase as the moon is moving in front of the sun, the sun is still too bright. Even when there’s a tiny little crescent showing, it’s still too bright and you’ll damage your eyes,” said Speck.
“This is an experience that people get to come and see this and experience it. It’s something that will have an impact on them for the rest of their lives. And it doesn’t matter whether they don’t know about the science, it’s something that’s about natural phenomena in the universe and people can engage with it, without any special equipment or anything,” concluded Speck.