2017 heralds the return of the total solar eclipse to the United States. Many partial eclipses have been visible here in the states in the past few decades (including one shortly after the 2012 Venus transit, and another visible here in Oregon in October of 2014), but a total solar eclipse has not been observed in the US since 1981 when the Moon completely obscured the Sun over parts of Alaska. Not only will the 2017 eclipse be visible in the continental United States, but it will be visible across the entire continent, from the west coast of Oregon to the east coast of South Carolina. The center line of the eclipse passes through twelve states, and the eclipse will be visible as a partial eclipse for almost the entire nation. On the map above provided by NASA, the path of totality falls between the blue lines, and the center line of the eclipse follows the red line.
Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, blocking some or all of the light from the Sun. It is important to note that this is distinctly different from a lunar eclipse, where the Earth blocks light from the Sun from reaching the Moon. Because the Moon is considerably smaller than the Earth, solar eclipses occur less frequently, and are typically only visible to those near the eclipse path. The image below shows the size of the shadow cast by the Moon, captured by NOAA's DSCOVR satellite during an the March 9, 2016 eclipse.
Due to the distance and size of the Moon in relation to the Sun, only a thin path about 60 miles across will actually experience totality, where the Sun is completely obscured by the Moon. An excellent map can be found on NASA's website here. While the Oregon Observatory does not fall within the path of totality, we are conveniently close to the centerline, and are still expecting to see nearly 99% of the Sun blocked by the Moon. The observatory will open well before the eclipse begins just after 9:00 AM on Monday, August 21, with a variety of telescopes set up for visual observing and projected observing.
Not going to be in the Sunriver area on eclipse day? Some staff members will be traveling with some of our telescopes outside of Sunriver. Madras, Oregon, is about an hour by car to the north, and lies very near the center of the path of totality. Keep in mind that both the Sisters and Redmond areas will experience 30 sec. of totality, without having to drive into the center area of totality, and the largest gathering of people. Be sure to check out the City of Madras information link below. Madras, and much of eastern Oregon and Idaho are expected to be most likely to have clear skies or little cloud cover along the path of totality. Additional staff may be present in Salem, OR, depending on the weather forecast, to participate in an event hosted by OMSI at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. Solar viewing glasses are also available for sale in our store at the Sunriver Nature Center as well as on our webstore. Check out some of the links below for further information on the 2017 total eclipse!
Regardless of whether you are joining us at the Oregon Observatory, please take appropriate actions to prevent damage to your eyes during the eclipse. Looking directly at the Sun without proper equipment or protection can cause serious and permanent damage, even when the Sun is almost entirely obscured by the Moon, there will still be enough energy from the visible portion to damage the cells in your eyes!
2017 Eclipse Links:
NASA Eclipse Animations: Excellent scale animations of Moon-Earth alignments for an eclipse
City of Madras Events: Attractions and Events in Madras and Central Oregon
Central Oregon Emergency Information Network: Local emergency and fire blog, with preparedness information for the eclipse
Eclipse Megamovie: Citizen Science project to document the eclipse nationwide, their resource page also includes information for educators and for photographing the eclipse
MrEclipse: Guide to imaging solar eclipses