Get ready for Aug. 21 ‘totality’ solar eclipse

nmIt’s time to make your final preparations for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

In Spokane, which is close to the path of totality, the sun will be 90 percent covered when the moon passes in front of it.

Three hundred miles to the south, the sun will be completely obscured in an event that is expected to draw millions as the path crosses the entire continental U.S.

Here, it will dramatically reduce the amount of daylight, giving the eerie feeling of a sunrise at mid-morning.

The partial eclipse begins at 9:12 a.m., followed by the maximum eclipse at 10:27. It ends at 11:46 a.m.

“For this area it’s going to be the best partial eclipse we can see until at least 2044, so we want to make the most of it,” said David Syphers, an assistant professor of physics at Eastern Washington University.

Syphers advises the school’s astronomy club, which plans to host an eclipse viewing party in the bleachers at Roos Field from 9 a.m. to noon. (The eclipse will be visible from 9:13 a.m. to 11:47 a.m. in Cheney.)

Syphers said there will be “plenty of seats facing just the right direction” and ample free parking in EWU’s P-12 lot. The football team will be practicing on the field, so the club likely will set up its telescopes on a platform at the top of the bleachers, which is wheelchair accessible.

The club also is selling eclipse glasses – $3 a pair or two for $5 – until supplies run out. And it’s planning to sell snacks and cold drinks during the event.

Syphers said the sun will be 91 percent covered from the vantage point in Cheney.

“We’re going to have an excellent viewing point,” he said.

Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises announced Monday that its eclipse-viewing boat ride had sold out, but there were still a few lake tour/hotel stay packages available starting at $239.

The Liberty Lake Municipal Library is hosting a solar eclipse watch party at Rocky Hill Park.

Spokane Astronomical Society members, who frequently organize watch parties, have decided a nearby total eclipse is too big of a deal to miss.

Many of them are going to the annual Oregon Star Party, which happens to coincide with the total eclipse. The party is near Mitchell, Ore.

Communities in Idaho and Oregon are planning big events, and authorities are warning about crowds, traffic jams and overwhelmed phone connections.

During a partial eclipse, looking at the sun can easily damage your eyes. Looking through unprotected binoculars or cameras is also dangerous and could damage cameras or other electronic devices.

Viewers should use eclipse glasses, or multiple squares of welding-hood glass to observe the sun during partial phases.

Passive projecting devices such as a box with a pinhole, also known as a camera obscura, offers the safest way to view the partial eclipse. And solar filters are available for telescopes, which allow viewers to see sun flares, sun spots and the outer layers of the sun safely.

Dr. Jeffry Colburn at Spokane Eye Clinic posted this cautionary statement on the clinic’s website:

“Direct sunlight is so powerful that it will actually burn your retina inside your eyes. If you are looking directly at the sun the burns will occur right in the middle of your vision. This is called solar retinopathy, and the vision loss rarely improves.

“During my residency training, I had a 20-year-old patient who had unfortunately blinded himself in both eyes for life as a result of looking at the sun,” he wrote.

KXLY has promoted a giveaway of eclipse glasses, getting hundreds out to eye clinics and the Eco Depot and now the public.

The promotion was successful, the entire stock went in one day last week.

Nadine Sullivan, president of the Eco Depot, 1326 E. Sprague Ave., said her business handed out 100 in one hour after it opened and gave away another 100 before running out.

Sullivan said a resupply should be coming in early this week.

Jim Pickens, president of the Spokane Astronomical Society, said that anyone planning to travel to the path of totality across Oregon and Idaho better have a well thought-out plan.

Small towns may be overrun with visitors. Traffic could back up. Gas, water and food supplies may run out. Cellphone communications may get overloaded.

It is a bad idea to try to get to the path of totality on the day of the eclipse since traffic might be heavy and slow, causing delays beyond the time of totality.

Lodging is full. People will be camping in yards and in forest areas.

The closer to the center of the path of totality, the longer totality will last. The longest time for totality Eastern Oregon is only two minutes and seven seconds, making it a fleeting event for all of hoopla.

Pickens recommended looking at other things besides the sun during totality.

Venus, Orion and winter constellations will become visibile. Nearby mountains will still be getting sunlight. The reflection of the eclipsed sun off a lake is beautiful, he said.

In Spokane, one of the most enchanting ways to safely view a partial eclipse is by looking at the light coming through shade trees. The space between leaves acts like a lens, focusing images of the eclipsed sun onto the ground.

“We will get a pretty good view in Spokane,” Pickens said.

“It will look like a very dark cloud went over the sun.”

In his book 2016 book, “Sun, Moon, Earth,” author and professor Tyler Nordgren, explains how the moon, during a certain part of its orbit around the Earth, fits precisely over the disc of the sun during a total eclipse, something he calls a “great coincidence.”

He is a veteran of solar eclipses.

“Make no mistake, the difference between whether you are inside the path of totality or outside it is literally the difference between day and night,” he wrote in the book’s prologue.

“No other experience comes close to the multisensory strangeness of this most unnatural of natural events…Totality changes everything.”

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