A Total Solar Eclipse visits Oregon
At 10:15 am, August 21st, 2017, a rare celestial event—a Total Solar Eclipse came ashore on a section of the Oregon Coast, adding to its stunning beauty. Bask in the darkness for nearly two minutes during this starlit spectacle.
This is the first chance to see a Total Solar Eclipse in the U.S. since 1979 (when one was also visible in parts of Oregon).
The Eclipse will follow a 60-70 mile wide path, coming ashore roughly between Manzanita and Lincoln City, then arcing Southeast.
For just under two minutes, you’ll be able to view the darkened sun, its corona (outer atmosphere), as well as planets and stars.
Watch from within the Path of Totality
Eclipse viewers need to be within a narrow band called the Path of Totality—roughly 70 miles wide—to see the moon totally obscure the sun. 100% eclipse viewing extends from Pacific City, OR, down to Depoe Bay, OR. After starting on Oregon’s Coast, the path then arcs down to the southeast, eventually leaving the US in South Carolina.
How to totally enjoy the total eclipse
It’s pretty simple. Pick a spot. Get some viewing glasses. And prepare to be amazed.
Do some recon. Choose your prime viewing spot ahead of time—good choices are beaches or other wide open spaces. Plan where to park, and to arrive at least two hours early.
Get your eclipse viewing glasses (they have special filters). Available free at businesses throughout each town in Tillamook County.
Plan ahead. Roads will be crowded. Yet, it’s well worth taking a day off for this once in a lifetime event.
See how things are lining up in space.
Be enlightened about the dark
The more you know, the more you’ll appreciate the Eclipse.
An eclipse is simply the obscuring of light from one celestial body by the passage of another. For example, a lunar eclipse is when the earth aligns between the sun and the moon, its shadow darkening the moon. During a Total Solar Eclipse, the moon completely blocks the sun from reaching the earth for a brief time.
Though there are other types of solar eclipses in which the moon partially obscures the sun, only in a Total Solar Eclipse is the darkest part of the moon’s shadow cast over Earth. This is what produces the amazing (but fleeting) image of the sun being “blacked out.”
Total Eclipses are possible due to an interesting coincidence—the moon and the sun are the same angular size. Why? Because while the sun is 400 times wider than the moon, it is also 400 times farther away. So when those two same-size appearing discs line up in the skies, we see a Solar Eclipse. But only a lucky few in the Path of Totality will ever see the moon entirely cover the sun.
Access is limited because the path is only as large as the moon’s shadow—62 miles wide—and it will be traveling at roughly 3,000 miles per hour! That means the shadow will traverse the width of Oregon in less than 10 minutes. It will touch more than a dozen other states, finally moving off the U.S. after crossing South Carolina, just an hour and a half after we see it on the West Coast. (That’s about four times as fast as a plane flying cross-country with no layovers!)
Once-in-a-lifetime? Many consider it so because to experience the Total Solar Eclipse, you have to be watching from within the Path of Totality. This will be the first total eclipse visible from the continental U.S. in over 35 years. And though the next one is just three years from now, it will only be visible from South America. For many, this year’s eclipse will be the only chance to see anything like it! In a single location in Oregon, in fact, if you wanted to see another Total Solar Eclipse in the same spot, you’d be watching with your great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren 375 years from now.
Simply put, you cannot look at the sun, or a partially eclipsed sun, without risking permanent eye damage. You can, however, watch the eclipse with special eclipse viewing glasses equipped with a proper filter. (Free at businesses from Pacific City, OR, down to Neskowin). Only when the moon totally obstructs the sun, within the Path of Totality, is it safe to look directly at the sun.
Experts advise people to keep their protective glasses on until even the last sliver of the sun is covered by the moon, and to replace them immediately after enjoying the eclipse. But it doesn’t take a professional to know that no one wants retinal burns! Do yourself a favor and protect your peepers.
Of course clouds and weather can affect your enjoyment of the eclipse. But even under cloudy skies, a total eclipse is a magnificent event. The change that comes over the air is palpable. Quite often in August the Oregon Coast is full of blue, sunny skies…ready to be obscured by only one thing—the eclipse!
Eclipses have mystified us for thousands of years. Around 4,000 years ago, ancient Chinese records of the solar eclipse noted “the Sun and Moon did not meet harmoniously.” As people tried to drive away the “dragon that was eating the sun,” astronomers were reportedly beheaded for failing to predict the event.
Throughout many ancient cultures, there was a pervasive fear and reverence of celestial bodies. Solar and lunar eclipses were seen as indicators of a disturbance to the natural order. Nonetheless, humans have been able to predict eclipses with relative accuracy since about 2300 BCE—much earlier than we were predicting the first comets and much before we understood the Earth’s relationship to the sun or the moon.
As a result of continued scientific study, (thankfully) in 2017, no heads will roll over this awesome event. You can sit back and fearlessly enjoy the eclipse with an understanding of what’s really going on in the sky—no dragons involved.
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