Things to know about the American Total Solar Eclipse

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)-  On Monday, August 21st, millions of people in the United States will have the opportunity to see a spectacular phenomenon. And you may want to pay attention to this one, because we won’t see another somewhat similar event until 2024.

Meteorologist Elise Dolinar explains.

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You’ve been hearing a lot about the American Total Solar Eclipse expected later this month. You’ve been getting so much information on it and have even had people telling you to get those specialty sunglasses, but why has there been so much talk? Well, I stopped by to talk to some professors here at the Physics and Astronomy Department at UK and we’re hoping to shed some light on just why this is such a big event.”

Dr. Tom Troland, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Kentucky:”One significance of this eclipse really is just the fact that so many people in the United States will have the opportunity to see it.”

The path of totality will cross around a dozen states. And if it’s a clear day, everyone in the U.S. will see something whether it’s the total eclipse, or just a partial eclipse. In fact, astronomers predict that as of 2017, this eclipse event will be the most viewed eclipse in human history. The last time an eclipse’s path of totality crossed the entire United States was in 1918.

Tim Knauer, Director at the MacAdam Student Observatory at the University of Kentucky: “It cuts across from Washington, across Wyoming, through the Midwest, Southern Illinois, and then out into the Atlantic Ocean by South Carolina; there are many millions of people within a half day’s drive of the path of totality.”

Now, in order to see the total eclipse, which is when the sun’s surface is completely blocked by the moon, you have to be within the path of totality. Unfortunately, Lexington does not fall within that path, but parts of far Western Kentucky do.

Dr. Tom Troland: “The path of totality is a narrow strip of land about 100 miles wide and thousands of miles long.”

So, here’s how it’s going to play out. Around 1 in the afternoon on Monday, August 21st, the moon will begin to move in front of the sun and gradually cover it. This will give us a partial eclipse. Around 2:24, areas within the path of totality will see the sun completely blocked by the moon, with the exception of the sun’s corona. That’s the outer atmosphere of the sun. Those of us outside the path of totality, and specifically in Kentucky, will see 95% of the sun covered at this point. The total eclipse will last around 2 and a half minutes.

Dr. Tom Troland: “There after, the moon will progressively uncover the sun and the sun will be completely uncovered and we’ll be return to ordinary daylight by 4 o’clock.”

So while we won’t see a total eclipse here in Lexington, it’s still going to be amazing event to witness. But one thing to keep in mind during the eclipse; don’t get caught up in taking pictures.

Dr. Tom Troland:”One thing none of those pictures can capture is your own impressions of this extraordinary phenomenon of nature.”

“So now you have plenty of information about the total solar eclipse and hopefully you’ve been heeding the warning to get those specialty glasses in order to view it.”

You MUST wear special eclipse glasses in order to view the event! You can look for eclipse glasses at local stores or online, but they are getting harder to find.

If you want more information about the total solar eclipse, the University of Kentucky’s Physics and Astronomy Department is holding a SkyTalk session about the event on Thursday, August 10th at 8 PM in the Chemistry/Physics building, room CP-155.

Follow the link for more details on UK’s MacAdam Student Observatory and SkyTalk sessions. https://www.as.uky.edu/observatory