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Prepare for Aug. 21 solar eclipse

Prepare for Aug. 21 solar eclipse

Dena Harris/


POSTED August 17, 2017 8:52 a.m.

CUBA CITY—A shadow is expected to fall on the area on Monday for the nation’s first total solar eclipse in 38 years.
On Monday, Aug. 21, the moon will start crossing in front of the sun, creating a partial darkness during daylight for approximately 90 minutes. This can be viewed in southwest Wisconsin starting at approximately 11:48 a.m. The Great American Eclipse will have the country looking to the sky mid-day for the astronomical event the country last witnessed on Feb. 26, 1979. The next solar eclipse over the midwest is predicted for April 2024. One will specifically cross Wisconsin on Sept. 14, 2099.

John Heasley, a solar system ambassador for NASA and owner of Driftless Stargazing LLC out of Lone Rock, discussed the upcoming eclipse during a presentation in Cuba City last week.
“Some people will travel to see total eclipses all over the world,” Heasley said.

Missouri and southern Illinois will be the closest locations that will witness a total eclipse.

The eclipse path will cross from the Pacific Coast in Oregon to the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina. Heasley said the shadow of the eclipse will be visible from space. It crosses at 2,000 miles per hour and will take 93 minutes to cross the United States.

Southwest Wisconsin is several hours from the path of the total eclipse. Approximately 90 percent of the sun will be eclipsed from viewing locations in Grant and Lafayette counties.

Heasley said unlike most night astronomy, a total solar eclipse is best seen live. He said people should not look directly at the eclipse. Instead, they should create a pinhole projector or purchase special eclipse glasses. A welder’s mask will also work. Sunglasses cannot be used in place of solar viewing glasses.
“It will look like the moon is taking a bite out of the sun,” Heasley said.

He said the shadow’s path will be approximately 60 miles wide and the sun will be in total shadow for approximately 2 ½ minutes.

“The sun is 400 times larger than the moon, but they appear the same size because the moon is closer to Earth,” Heasley said.

Heasley recommended making a memory with this eclipse since they don’t happen often.

A solar eclipse can only happen at a new moon, just as a lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon. The disk of the moon blocks out the last sliver of light from the sun, and the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, becomes visible.
“There have been many partial eclipses over Wisconsin,” Heasley said.

Two to five solar eclipses occur around the world each year on average, but total solar eclipses happen just once every 18 months or so.

“I’m getting you all excited for the eclipse and the truth is it might be cloudy, and, if that is the case, you wouldn’t see it,” Heasley said.

Approximately 36 people of all ages attended the presentation at City Hall. The program was presented by the Cuba City Public Library.

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