Abby Johnson: Solar eclipse connects us to past, each other
‘This is the grandest of all astronomical spectacles. It’s actually the greatest natural wonder that you could possibly see. Except, of course, the birth of a child.” – Mike Kentrianakis, eclipse chaser
The Great American Eclipse is coming to Carson City. Eclipses aren’t uncommon but it has been 99 years since a solar eclipse spanned the United States from sea to shining sea. Monday’s total solar eclipse will captivate the nation again, as a shadow of darkness moves from mid-coast Oregon to Charleston, S.C.
About 200 million people live within an hour of the totality zone where the sun will be completely blocked by the moon. And many of them will be watching along with eclipse tourists. Carson friends are heading to Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming to catch a glimpse of the celestial void.
Historically and prehistorically, eclipses inspired lore and legend. Some cultures considered it part of the natural order, while others embraced the chaos. Many cultures believed animals or dragons chased and devoured the sun or moon. Other cultures consider it an opportunity for harmony. The Batammaliba people in Africa believe the sun and moon are fighting during the eclipse. The people use eclipse time to resolve disputes and grudges. Today eclipses are a chance for astronomers to learn more about the sun. But the ancient mystery of daytime darkness descending still fascinates and intrigues us today.
Here in Carson City (and all of Nevada) we will experience a partial solar eclipse. The moon will come between the sun and Earth, but will only block part of the sun. The height of the eclipse here will be at 10:20 a.m., when nearly 82 percent of the sun is blocked by the moon. During the peak of darkness, when the sun is a thin crescent, will stars and planets be visible? Will the street lights turn on? Will the birds stop chirping? Will the crickets start?
Carson City library is offering a special eclipse program from 9-11 a.m. as part of its NASA@MyLibrary initiative. Sign up soon through the calendar on the library’s website as eclipse glasses are limited. It will also have viewing through a filtered telescope. The Jack C. Davis Observatory at Western Nevada College is also hosting a morning of eclipse viewing beginning at 8:30 a.m. and will provide live viewing of the total eclipse on big screens as well as filtered telescopes to view the local version. And UNR’s Fleischmann Planetarium is also another watch spot and resource.
Looking directly at the eclipse without special eye protection will damage your eyes. Sunglasses aren’t protective. Check online or at the Carson City library for safe ways to view the eclipse. Note Amazon is recalling some of the eclipse glasses it sold, so view with caution. Also be watchful children don’t peek around their eclipse glasses to get a better, but harmful look.
One way to view the eclipse without special glasses is by making a refracted image projector. Use two white paper plates or pieces of paper. Make a small hole in one piece of paper with a thumbtack or pin. With your back facing the sun, hold the paper over your shoulder. The light will project the eclipse image onto the other piece of paper. For information on DIY viewers, check out timeanddate.com.
An eclipse is an opportunity to experience the same daytime darkness as the ancient peoples and the power of celestial forces. I’ll be in rural Nevada during the eclipse and hope to catch a safe glance as the sun becomes a crescent. Let’s hope for clear weather everywhere, even on the Oregon coast.
Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.