On Monday, August 21st, we will experience an astronomical event that has not happened across the continental U.S. since 1918:  a total solar eclipse.  Here are some basic facts to help you get the most out of the eclipse:

  • A solar eclipse is different from a lunar eclipse and rarer.  In a solar eclipse, the moon is positioned between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow onto Earth’s surface and blocking part or all of the sun.
  • Everywhere in the continental U.S. will experience a partial eclipse.  With the aid of eclipse glasses, you will be able to see the sun eclipsed by the moon.  Without glasses, you can see the crescent sun by poking a hole in a paper plate and placing a piece of paper beneath to capture the shadow.
  • The main thing people strive to see is the total eclipse.  Southwestern Kentucky is in the path of totality, the narrow band across the U.S. in which the moon’s shadow will pass.  People anywhere in the path of totality will see the sun completely eclipsed and see the sun’s corona, the outermost gases that surround the sun.  The corona can only be viewed from Earth during a total solar eclipse. Sunlight will darken to twilight conditions and you will see a 360° sunset effect across the horizon.  If you are outside the path of totality, you will only see the partial eclipse.
  • The total eclipse may be viewed anywhere within the path of totality as long as you are not under cloud cover.  The key to seeing the total eclipse is being willing to be mobile and move to where there are clear skies.  You will see some effects from the eclipse with cloud cover, but you will miss the main show, which is the corona.
  • If you are in Kentucky and choose to venture out to see the total solar eclipse, it is recommended that you stay away from Hopkinsville and stay off interstates, especially during the total eclipse.  Keep to untraveled rural roads as much as possible.  Here is a link to an interactive map that shows the path of totality.  By clicking on any location, you will see when the partial eclipse and total eclipse start and end: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html.  Anywhere between the two blue lines has the potential for viewing the total eclipse; the closer you are to the pink center line, the longer the duration of the eclipse.
  • Depending on where you are in the path of totality, the total eclipse could last anywhere from a few seconds to a maximum of 2 min. and 40 seconds.  Check the map link to determine exactly what time the partial and total eclipse start where you are, but please note that times are in universal time (UT), which is 4 hours later than Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You must use eclipse glasses to look at the partial eclipse!!  Sunglasses and other filters are not adequate and you could damage your vision.  If you are in the path of totality, take the glasses off during the total eclipse to see the corona.  ISO 12312-2

New Pioneers has a limited supply of certified eclipse glasses available for purchase at $3 each.  Drop into our office at 127 W Main St. Springfield M – F between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm or email us at NewPioneersSF@aol.com.

If driving from the Nelson-Marion-Washington tri-county area, one route to the path of totality that will keep you away from heavy traffic is to head south to Campbellsville, take Hwy. 68 to Edmonton, Hwy. 168 to Tompkinsville, and Hwy. 100 to Gamaliel, TN.  At that point, you are in the path of totality and would experience the total eclipse for 1 min. 22 sec.  If you want a longer total eclipse, keep heading south towards Carthage, TN

Carolyn Cromer, Director of Ecological Sustainability
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth