2017, the Year of the Eclipse
There are always astronomical goodies for us to view in the Night Sky and plenty of fascinating things going on during daylight hours that we can observe on our Sun. This coming year, 2017, however, is special. It is the year of THE ECLIPSE for us in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the United States. As you will see and hear in the media, August 21, 2017, at approximately 10:21 AM, our Sun will be totally covered by the moon for as much as a bit over two minutes in our area. The last total eclipse in this region occurred in 1979 and back then we were in a prime location as the path of totality passed through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. Then, as will happen again next August, people from all over the country and around the world visited our region to view the eclipse of the Sun.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between the Earth and the Sun. It can only occur during a new moon phase when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun. During this time, the moon’s shadow falls on the earth and the sunlight is blocked out by the moon. The only way to see the totality of the eclipse is to be fairly close to the middle line of the path of the Sun.
In our area the line of totality starts at the coast, just north of Newport. The Sun’s shadow will race eastward in a matter of minutes to nudge the Salem area and then heads across the mountain toward Central Oregon. At about 10:19 am the Sun’s shadow reaches Warm Springs and Madras with about 2 minutes and a few seconds of totality. It continues on through Mitchell and Prairie City and the Sun’s shadow leaves Oregon just north of Ontario. For the longest amount of totality in Oregon, there’s a rest area on I-84 in Huntington, OR. There will be about 2 minutes and nine seconds there. As the Sun continues its eastward path through other states, periods of totality do increase. It appears that 2 minutes and about forty seconds is approximately the longest time of totality in the United States in North Carolina. So, even though Oregon is a few seconds shorter, we are remarkably placed for a good long time of morning darkness and with almost guaranteed good weather.
It’s important to note that some big cities in Oregon such as Eugene, Medford and Portland are NOT in the path of totality. Salem is. Unfortunately our Oregon Observatory is not in the path, either. We will, however, be open during that time. The Observatory will be participating in a number of events around the state and we’ll be keeping you posted on this page as well as on the website, our Facebook page and local media.
There are many places across the state of Oregon where the shadow of the sun will touch and many where totality will be experienced. A good guide to check is the Eclipse2017 site at www.eclipse2017.org/2017/states/OR.htm. I’m sure there are a multitude of other sites available as well.
Before I close two more things: NEVER, EVER look at the sun directly either during an eclipse or not. Severe eye damage may be the result. We have available for sale at the Observatory specially designed “Eclipse Glasses” that are safe and useful as well as a very affordable memento of The Eclipse, 2017. You can order them directly from us or come by and buy some. Also, if you are coming to Central Oregon during the time the eclipse is occurring, make your reservations NOW. In many cases motels are already booked. State Parks are already filling up as well.
The Eclipse of 2017 is an event you really don’t want to miss if at all possible. Make your plans now to join us in this extremely rare event. Stay tuned!