7 things you need to know about the Great Amer­i­can Eclipse

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Gra­ham Am­brose

The as­tro­nom­i­cal in­ter­est in the com­ing Au­gust eclipse has Amer­i­cans from Ore­gon to South Carolina buzzing with ce­les­tial ex­cite­ment. But Bryan Brewer has al­ways been fas­ci­nated with eclipses — so much so that he wrote his first edi­tion of “Eclipse: His­tory. Science. Awe.” in an­tic­i­pa­tion of see­ing his first, in Fe­bru­ary of 1979. “It was in the Pa­cific North­west on a cloudy, grey day, and we just hap­pened to be in a spot where the clouds had parted,” he said. In the 38 years since that for­tu­nate first en­counter, he’s seen four more — in Hawaii, Brazil, the Caribbean and Ger­many. He up­dated “Eclipse,” which is now in its third edi­tion, ahead of the Aug. 21 event.

For Coloradans, the clos­est places for view­ing the to­tal eclipse are in Wy­oming and Ne­braska. So­journ­ers be­ware, though: ho­tels in the “path of to­tal­ity” — the track of the moon’s shadow across Earth — started fill­ing up months ago. But that shouldn’t quash the fun for the 12 million Amer­i­cans who live near the 70-mile-wide path, or the some 100 million peo­ple who can ex­pect to see a par­tial eclipse.

We sat down with Brewer to hear his ex­pert rec­om­men­da­tions about what you need to know for Aug. 21.

Don’t plan on last minute travel.

This is the first so­lar eclipse cross­ing the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. in 99 years, Brewer said. “You can ex­pect the worst traf­fic jam of all time.” If you have plans to travel, ar­rive a day or two early. Then stay put, as last-minute mo­bil­ity may be dif­fi­cult on pub­lic road­ways.

The Au­gust eclipse could break the in­ter­net.

All of North Amer­ica will be able to see the rare align­ment of sun and moon. That means all of North Amer­ica — and bil­lions across the globe — will be crowd­ing so­cial me­dia for pic­tures, videos and news of the event. Over­whelm­ing traf­fic might shut down more than road­ways, Brewer warned, frus­trat­ing in­ter­net users across the world dur­ing peak view-

ing hours, from roughly 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. MTD.

Get­ting in­side the path of to­tal­ity is a must.

For en­thu­si­asts, 95 per­cent won’t cut it,” Brewer says. “A par­tial eclipse just isn’t the same thing. It’s not even close.” He ad­vises eclipse watch­ers to move as close to the cen­ter of the path of to­tal­ity as pos­si­ble. The full eclipse will last be­tween two and three min­utes, de­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion. The par­tial eclipse can linger as long as a few hours for those out­side the path of to­tal­ity. NASA’S in­ter­ac­tive map (eclipse2017.nasa.gov) will tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about eclipse-view­ing at your lo­ca­tion.

Wear eclipse glasses be­fore the event — and take them off dur­ing to­tal­ity.

Ex­perts stress that the only safe way to look di­rectly at the sun, ex­cept at the brief phase of to­tal­ity (in the path of to­tal­ity), is us­ing a spe­cial-pur­pose so­lar fil­ter, pop­u­larly known as eclipse glasses. Eclipse glasses block more UV rays than ev­ery­day sun­glasses, pro­tect­ing your reti­nas from burn­ing even when you feel no dis­com­fort look­ing at the sun through shades. Brewer wants to re­mind view­ers trav­el­ing to the path of to­tal­ity to take off the glasses dur­ing peak eclipse. “I’ve heard sto­ries of peo­ple who wear the glasses through the whole event,” Brewer says, shak­ing his head. “They say, ‘It was cool and all, but it didn’t seem that spe­cial.’ Of course it wasn’t that spe­cial — you missed the best part!”

Get ex­cited about a backup plan.

The tragic irony of eclipses, Brewer says, is that “you know it’s go­ing to hap­pen, but you don’t know if you’re go­ing to see it.” That’s be­cause of weather. Astronomers can pre­dict eclipses hun­dreds of years in ad­vance with stun­ning ac­cu­racy and pre­ci­sion. Day-to-day weather, how­ever, still stumps me­te­o­rol­o­gists. In case of in­clement weather, Brewer ad­vises look­ing for­ward to a backup plan. Try bring­ing cham­pagne: to cel­e­brate a suc­cess­ful view­ing or to wash down a cloudy bust.

Don’t bother record­ing the eclipse.

The to­tal eclipse will only last 2½ min­utes for most of Wy­oming. Don’t waste pre­cious time try­ing to snap the per­fect picture of the sun, Brewer said. Most phone cam­eras can’t han­dle sun­light, even dur­ing a to­tal eclipse. If you man­age to grab a ser­vice­able picture, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed how small the sun ap­pears. “It’ll be just a lit­tle dink in the sky,” Brewer said. In­stead, he ad­vises record­ing re­ac­tions to the eclipse. “Eclipses can be life-chang­ing,” he said. “You might want to re­mem­ber how it changed yours.”

Open your­self up to awe.

Eclipses have fas­ci­nated human civ­i­liza­tion for mil­len­nia. The an­cient Egyp­tians, Mayans, Greeks and Chinese all had elab­o­rate tra­di­tions and be­liefs sur­round­ing the logic-de­fy­ing event. “The Tahi­tians thought eclipses were the gods mak­ing love,” Brewer said about the over­lap­ping of the male-as­so­ci­ated sun and the fe­male-as­so­ci­ated moon. Modern hu­mans can still ex­pe­ri­ence the same in­ex­pli­ca­ble feel­ing of awe that make eclipses so ad­dict­ing and even ther­a­peu­tic. “Awe can help re­set your think­ing,” Brewer said. “There’s re­search that awe leads to a re­lax­ation of your nervous sys­tem, help­ing you feel more in­ter­ested in and con­tent with the uni­verse all at once.”

Den­ver Post file He­len H. Richard­son,

Peo­ple in Boul­der ex­pe­ri­enced a par­tial eclipse of the sun set­ting over the Flatirons on May 20, 2012.

He­len H. Richard­son, Den­ver Post file

Jes­sica Kutz, with glasses, of Boul­der, right, and oth­ers catch a glimpse of the par­tial eclipse as it peeked out from be­hind the clouds on May 20, 2012. Dozens of peo­ple gath­ered on the Boul­der over­look on High­way 36 just south­east of Boul­der to get a per­fect view of the eclips­ing sun as it set over the flatirons.

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