Those people lucky enough to experience the effects of a total solar eclipse remember the event for the rest of their lives. When the moon passes in front of the sun, it throws a shadow on the surface of the earth which we see as an eclipse. The event occurs when the moon completely covers the sun from the vantage point of the observer. Of course, it gets dark during the process. It's similar to nightfall but the dark area is completely surrounded by daylight.
Birds, animals and insects are affected by total solar eclipses. They perceive the event to be the coming of nightfall. Those creatures, active during the day, return to their nighttime homes. Nocturnal creatures emerge. Depending on the darkness of the event, the effect on animals will be exactly the same as nightfall. The only difference will be the shortness of the sleeping period.
Observers of these events will see a twilight band completely circling their location. The sun is blotted out by the moon. Since the solar corona extends very far into space, it is not blocked by the moon. instead, the corona becomes visible since the bulk of the sun's light is blocked. Each eclipse looks different as the corona is a constantly changing feature. During totality, enough sunlight is blocked so that bright stars and planets may become visible.
The next total solar event to occur in the United States is in on August 21, 2017. The path of totality for this eclipse starts in Oregon and tracks across the lower 48 states to the eastern shores of South Carolina. The total track of the path includes many areas which could be expected to have good weather at that time of year. Obviously, cloudy skies present the eclipse viewer with a problem. Even in areas with good weather, eclipse viewers should be on the lookout for thunderstorms. These could also interfere with good viewing of the total solar eclipse features.
Luckily for watchers, the weather often stabilizes in the moments just before the event. Clouds become stationary as much of the solar energy is temporarily blocked. It is the solar energy that imparts force into the winds. The energy for such features drops just before the show. Thus the weather may become stable at this time. If the viewing area is in sunlight just prior to totality, it should afford a good view.
Visitors to Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Carbondale, Illinois, have the ability to view the eclipse in places which will experience each of the next two US solar events. These cities are fortunate to be in the path of two periods of totality in less than seven years. Both cities are expecting many visitors in 2017 and 2024. Visitors to either city will be able to enjoy the attractions in the areas and be able to witness each of the events from the same vantage points, seven years apart. Since the conditions are completely different, travelers to the area will find a different experience during each of the tracks.
Since astronomers have had to wait for such a long time for an event in the United States, you should start making plans now to attend the next event. Mark the August 21, 2017 date on your long range plans. It will definitely be worth a trip to experience the awesome spectacle that is a in store.
Start Preparing for the Total Solar Eclipse
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What to Expect
During periods of totality, local conditions will become quite dark, and the weather will cool dramatically. The sun is the driving force of weather. Since it is obscured, even just for a short period of time, heat is blocked from reaching the ground. This will have interesting local effects.
For example, since the sun is blocked out by the moon, and sunlight is reduced, the winds may drop significantly. Wind is triggered by the sun, ultimately. After the moon moves off, sunlight will be restored and the wind will resume normality.
Be sure to observe sunlight streaming through the leaves of trees prior to the event. Many times, the gaps in the leaves will act as a multitude of pinhole cameras. These will cause the image of the sun to be projected onto the ground or objects in the area. You may see thousands of tiny crescent images. Each is created as sunlight reaches the surface of the Earth. The crescent shape will mirror the shape of the moon as it passes between your location and the sun.
Many observers also report "shadow bands" during the process. These are light interference patterns that are visible to local observers. They may be difficult to see. Some people have had success seeing them on building walls in advance of the moment of totality.
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Watching the effects of totality may well convert many people into junior astronomers. The effects are quite amazing, generally. There are certainly images that are completely unique to a person's previous experience. Remember as well that no two are exactly alike. The moon's shadow will appear to come from a different direction, the time of year may be different, weather plays a role. Regardless, many people who observe one may feel the urge to do so again. There are many totality chasers, people who will travel practically anywhere to experience the spectacle again.
These amateur astronomers are actually in good company. For about 200 years, many similar people have traveled to distant lands for the experience. In the early days, the task was performed by scientists. Important experiments were devised for the events. In time, they became spectator sports, science having been taken over by more advanced telescopes, and computer processing.
Still, each event gives many people the opportunity to travel for viewing purposes. They join the local residents in the observance of a rare spectacle. In the case of the USA in 2017, it will have been decades since the last one. Luckily, the next one will only be seven years later.