Solar Eclipse Viewing with Professor Wesley Reddish


Perhaps you’ve heard of the coming solar eclipse about to cross the continental US.  This will be the first in some time. Here in Oklahoma, we will not see the total solar eclipse – the moon will block out most of the sun, but not quite all.

The eclipse shadow will begin over the North Pacific and cross the coast line just south of Portland.  Some of the larger cities that will experience full shadow (if even for a short time) are: Salem OR, Casper WY, Columbia MO, Nashville TN, Greenville SC, Columbia SC, and Charleston SC.  Lincoln NE and KC Missouri are just barely outside the path of totality.

Now if you want to see a total eclipse, and you can’t make this one – just wait six more years until April of 2024.  A total eclipse beginning in the Equatorial Pacific will come up through Mexico and Texas, cross the southeast corner of Oklahoma (MSC will be just a bit outside – but only by an hour’s drive!) before crossing into the northeastern US and exiting the North American continent through New Brunswick Canada.

An eclipse occurs whenever the moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun.  This can only happen during a New Moon phase, but not every New Moon.  The Moon’s orbit is tilted with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, so most of the time the Moon is above or below the line from Earth to the Sun, and no eclipse occurs.  If the Moon is too near the Earth in its orbit, the observer sees an annular eclipse instead of a total eclipse – the outer edges of the Sun extend around the outer edges of the moon and form a ‘ring of fire.’

Meanwhile, here at MSC on the 21st, we will see an uncommon sight, even if it is not a total eclipse.  Starting at 11:39 a.m. on Monday, August 21st (second Monday of classes) the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun.  This will look like a bright circle slowly being taken over by a dark circle.  Maximum coverage will occur at 1:08 p.m. when the Moon is blocking 80% of the Sun.  By 2:38 p.m., the Moon will have completely passed the Sun.

Even at maximum blockage, the 20% of the Sun still shining past the curve of the Moon is more than sufficient to cause permanent retinal damage.  Take the proper safety precautions to view this rare astronomical event.  The school will be hosting a viewing party on the North Lawn (north of the Administration building, east of Student Services).  VP Henthorn has secured the proper ISO certified solar viewing glasses.  All students are welcome to join us there to see the eclipse.  A few additional expedient measures for eclipse viewing will also be demonstrated.

Hope to see you there!

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