Solar eclipse will bring dark skies at noon

By: 
CHRIS MCCONNELL
Outlook staff writer
Graphic courtesy of NASA. The path of the total eclipse is shown through Wyoming. The closest totality location for Yellowstone or Stillwater County residents is Thermopolis or Casper, Wyo.

On Monday, weather permitting, everyone in North America will see at least a partial solar eclipse. The sun will mostly disappear and there will be near-twilight at high noon. The total eclipse will be visible in central Wyoming.
While there are usually one or two partial or total lunar eclipses each year visible from the United States, a solar eclipse is rare. In fact, the last time the continental U.S. saw a total solar eclipse was 38 years ago, in 1979.
The 70-mile-wide path of totality (100 percent coverage) begins on Oregon’s central coast, passes through central Idaho and Wyoming, and eventually exits the continent near Charleston, S.C.
Maximum coverage in Laurel will be 93 percent, with coverage increasing as one travels south. The moon will cover 96 percent of the Sun in Red Lodge.
In the Laurel area, the eclipse begins at 10:21 a.m. and is at maximum coverage at 11:39 a.m., ending at 1:02 p.m.
During a lunar eclipse the earth passes between the moon and the sun, turning the moon a ruddy color due to light reflecting off the earth and scattering in the atmosphere, but on Monday the moon will pass between the earth and sun, blocking it out with a pitch black disk. Viewers along the path of totality will be able to see the Sun’s outer atmosphere; the corona.
The moon, on average, is less than 240,000 miles away from earth, and the sun is 93,000,000 miles further. This creates the illusion of equal size, when in reality the Sun’s diameter is 400 times that of the moon.
If the Earth were represented by a beach ball 16 inches across at its diameter (widest point) the moon would be the size of a softball and 40 feet away. At this same scale, the Sun is 145 feet across and nearly three miles away.
The shortest drive from Yellowstone or Stillwater counties to the totality is Thermopolis or Casper, Wyo; where the moon will completely block the Sun for two minutes and twenty seconds. This is the only time it is safe to look at the eclipse without eye protection.
Wyoming will be a popular viewing location due to its reliable cloudless late summer weather and National Park officials are warning of increased traffic in Teton National Park, which is expected to break the all-time single day attendance record.
Wyoming Highway Patrol is closing all roads to oversized or overweight loads in anticipation of the increased traffic. Up to 200,000 eclipse tourists are expected to flood central Wyoming alone. An estimated 2-7 million people will travel north or south to join the 12 million who already live in the 70 mile wide path of totality across the United States, according to statisticians at GreatAmericanEclipse.com.
Whether one watches the partial eclipse from Yellowstone, Stillwater or Carbon Counties, or travels south to reach the totality, exercise caution and don’t look at the Sun without proper eye protection.
The American Astronomical Society has a website devoted to eclipse viewing safety:
https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters

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