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Will you become an eclipse chaser?


We’re 30 days away

The Aug. 21 solar eclipse experience may trigger a new passion for you to pursue. Umbraphiles are eclipse chasers who travel the world to experience the awe of the shadow. Some chasers tally the minutes spent in totality. If you’re one of the lucky million or so in Oregon who squeezes into the 87-mile-wide totality path, you can bag 2 minutes to 2 minutes 10 seconds and be on your way toward a lifetime goal. You never know; how about a trip to Argentina or Chile for the next total solar eclipse July 2,  2019?

Wondering what to expect for our eclipse? Here’s a quick primer.

Total Solar Eclipse phases. Composite Solar Eclipse.

The critical viewing moments
Adapted from a description by Jim Todd – Director of Space Science Education, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

First Contact
While wearing your approved eclipse glasses, this is the moment you’ll notice a bite out of the sun. The bite will steadily grow larger until the sun becomes a narrow crescent. Look at shadows cast on the ground from tree leaves—an amazing collection of crescents.

10-15 minutes before totality–Shadows grow sharper as daylight diminishes and an eerie quality of daylight envelops you. Shadows grow sharper. The temperature drops. Birds and other animals act as though it’s evening.

1-2 minutes before totality–Your senses scream. Something big is about to happen. Sunlight looks strangely different; it isn’t day, nor is it the night. The sky displays a color gradient, dark to the west and blue to the east.

Look to the west. Mountains or clouds in the distance turn dark. The moon’s shadow has met them and is coming quickly toward you.

Look at the ground, especially white surfaces. You may see the elusive shadow bands that flicker and dance and somewhat resemble the refractions of sunlight on the bottom of a swimming pool.

Seconds before totality–You may see the very thin crescent of the sun (through your eclipse glasses) suddenly break into a thin string of beads. Baily’s Beads occur because the last remnants of sunlight are peeking through valleys and low points of the moon’s surface. The last Baily’s Bead lasts for only an instant and the breathtaking sight of this last bit of sunlight along with your first view of the corona is called the diamond ring.

Second Contact
Total eclipse begins–Now the moment has come and it is unmistakable. For probably the first time in your life, you are standing under the shadow of the moon. It is suddenly dark and there will be an audible reaction from you and others. You can take off your eclipse glasses and look at the corona with your eyes and binoculars. This is the only safe time to look at the eclipse without eclipse glasses.

Chromosphere and prominences– If you view the eclipse through binoculars (only when the Sun is completely blocked by the moon!), look for an innermost and irregular layer of deep red. This is the Sun’s chromosphere. Watch for what seem to be several licks of flame. These are solar prominences and their number and degree vary.

Stars and planets–Brighter stars and planets are visible during totality but don’t spend too much time stargazing. Focus on the eclipse

Third Contact
Total eclipse ends–
After about two minutes, the total solar eclipse ends, marked by a second diamond ring followed by Baily’s Beads. Be sure to watch this through your eclipse.

Last Contact
Partial eclipse–
Pause, reflect and celebrate with your family and friends.