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Facts About the 2017 USA Total Solar Eclipse

By Edited Sep 22, 2016 0 0

Two Solar Eclipses Only Seven Years Apart

Carbondale, Illinois, and Cape Girardeau Get Two Total Solar Eclipses Seven Years Apart
Any point on the Earth's surface is likely to experience a total solar eclipse once in about 400 years. For an area of about 70 square miles, both the August 21, 2017, and the April 8, 2024, will be visible. Carbondale, IL, and Cape Girardeau, MO, are the largest lucky communities to get both eclipses. The 2017 event will have a totality of about 2.5 minutes here. The 2024 event tops 4 minutes of totality.

The actual crossing point for the center of the two eclipses occurs in a wooded area just south of Carbondale, IL. This spot represents the point where the duration of totality is the longest in the area where the two eclipses happen to cross. People can experience longer periods of totality if they are elsewhere on the eclipse dates. The crossing point is just an interesting coincidence.


Start Planning for the Total Solar Eclipse

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Two Eclipses Cross Near Here

2017 and 2024

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Carbondale, IL, USA

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse is an American Exclusive

The August 21, 2017 is only visible to viewers in the Continental United States along a narrow band from Oregon to South Carolina. The event starts in the Pacific Ocean near the International Date line. As the moon's shadow tracks east, it passes well to the north of Hawaii and doesn't encounter land until it reaches the Oregon Coast. From there Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, will experience at least some period of totality. In comparison, the 2024 eclipse will be visible in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

The 2017 is actually a very long event. The moon's shadow tracks across the surface of the Earth for thousands of miles. First it moves along the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Only boats and airplanes in the vicinity will see the eclipse here. It strikes the USA, of course, and continues eastward. It proceeds out over the Atlantic Ocean. The shadow of the moon misses Bermuda and the Bahamas. Again, only boats and airplanes will see the event once it moves beyond the United States.

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Total Solar Eclipse Visible at an Observatories

The new Boeing Observatory at the state museum in Columbia, South Carolina is directly in the path of the total solar eclipse. This facility houses a vintage 1926 Alvan Clarke 12 3/8 inch refracting telescope which is updated with computer controls. The facility also features a solar scope which will be trained on the sun on August 21, 2017.

The Melton Memorial Observatory, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, is located in the totality zone as well. This facility was built in 1928 and is actually supersedes earlier facilities that were established first in 1817 and updated in the 1850's. After the US Civil War, the main telescope was evidently stolen for the brass content. The university did not have a working observatory for many years despite the fact that the backup telescope was still functional and still available.

Laws Observatory, University of Missouri, in Columbia, Missouri, is also located in the zone of totality. It was first established in 1853 with a small refracting telescope. This was the first observatory in the Western United States. Equipment was upgraded through the 1800's, as was the building. Eventually, in 1920, a new building was built to house equipment.


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More Observatories

The Morrison Observatory in Fayette, Missouri, is well situated as well. It is located at the Central Methodist University. It operates a 12.25 inch Clarke telescope which is like the one used at the Boeing Observatory in Columbia, South Carolina. Local astronomers built a 12 inch reflecting telescope in 1961 and donated it to the facility. 

The Vanderbilt University Observatory in Nashville, Tennessee will be eclipsed on August 21, 2017. It was first constructed in 1876, only the third building on the then new university. It underwent continual improvements in both construction and equipment before 1952. Then the facility was demolished. The university lacked an observatory until 1973. Since then, more improvements have been made on the site. Various telescopes are now in use.

The Tamke-Allan Observatory at the Roane State Community College is also in the zone. There, an 8 inch refractor, a 12 inch reflector, and various radio telescopes are in use. The sun is an active source of radio signals. Tamke-Allan may be in a unique position to perform radio observations of the sun during the August 21 event.

The Vanderbilt University operates an observatory in Nashville. It will be a key location for viewers on August 21, 2017.

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Nashville, TN, USA

Science Now Happens at all Times

During the last solar eclipse in the USA, in 1991, the Hawaiian observatories on Mauna Kea were also treated to totality. This time, at least as many observatories will experience totality. In past ages, science was performed during such astronomical events. Now a great deal of observing is done by instruments located around the world, and in space.

The need for direct observational science during an eclipse is no longer as important as it once was. Regardless, it is an interesting coincidence that so many observatories are well positioned to take advantage of the August 21, 2017 event. 

People will likely look to the staff of these facilities for information as the Big Day approaches. After all, they espouse science. It is a natural assumption that many people will be attracted to these locations to enjoy the eclipse. It represents a natural opportunity for the science to be advanced, at least the awareness of science in the communities surrounding these sites.

The big event is during the day, of course, and many of the pieces of equipment may not have adequate filters to permit solar viewing. Some will, of course. People will look for great experiences that they will remember long after the moon passes beyond the sun's disc. What better way to highlight the event than by enjoying it at a local facility dedicated to science?



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