AUBURN – Eugene Lanning of Arbor Astronomy Group told an audience of 70 people Thursday at the Auburn Public Library that preparation can protect their eyesight and enhance their enjoyment of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
Lanning offered a description of the eclipse and the 70-mile shadow of the moon that will cross Nebraska at 2,500 mph. The longest period for the total eclipse at any location is 2 minutes and 40 seconds, but Auburn will have totality of 2 minutes and eight seconds.
Do Not Go Blind!
Viewers must wear proper eye protection until totality and must not look at the sun as its rays return.
Lanning noted that the moon has mountain ridges on it, so some of the sun’s rays may pour through mountain valleys in an affect called bally beads. These rays should not be looked at with the unprotected eye. If people can see a sliver of the sun around the moon, they should keep their glasses on.
Even with protective glasses on, people should not look at the sun through cameras, binoculars or other optical devices.
When the light is dim, a person may feel okay while looking at the sun. The retina of the eye has no pain receptors, so the person feels okay. Even during the drive home, they may not notice any problems. However, by morning, a sunburned retina will result in vision blurring.
He said a victim will see a smudge in the morning mirror and, when they pick up the morning newspaper, they will see all of the white, but none of the black.
He said eyesight may sometimes improve, but is considered permanent in about 50 percent of the cases.
Lanning said people, who coordinate their clocks with published onset times, should keep glasses on for a few more seconds to make sure totality has been achieved.
He has downloaded the app “Solar Eclipse Timer” on his phone. It will give an audible countdown for the longitude and latitude he supplies.
What will you see?
- Ambient light will dim until it is like the night sky with a full moon
- People will be able to see stars and planets. Jupiter will be to the left of where the sun is and Venus will be to the right. The star Regulas will be above and to the left of the sun.
- The corona, an aura of plasma, will surround the sun.
Lanning said the eclipse is too rare, too short and too special to waste time fumbling with a camera. For those who can’t resist, he suggests a “selfie.” He said photos of the eclipse by itself will be common, but a selfie is as unique as the event and the person experiencing it.
Lanning noted that 32 million people live within the drivable range of Nebraska’s path of totality. Of those, 2 percent are expected to make the trip. That would put up to 400,000 visitors into the state.
He said a recent news report advised Omaha residents to drive south on Highway 75 to eclipse viewing territory.
Lanning said even towns like Auburn could experience traffic jams.
He said the influx of people will also mean an increase in cell phone and mobile device data usage. Lanning said the Internet will slow down.
Lanning said a large influx of people could overwhelm supplies in port-a-potties in viewing areas, so he recommends bringing your own supplies.
He suggests a 24-hour supply of water, mosquito repellant and sun block. He also advises a blanket or reclining chair for viewing.
Will it be too cloudy?
Lanning studied National Weather Serivce data over a five-year period and says there is a 25 percent chance of cloud cover in Auburn. The chance of cloud cover increases as you move south into Kansas and decreases as you move toward Western Nebraska.
Lanning said the National Weather Service accuracy is off about 8 percent. So a forecast on Sunday of 20 percent cloud cover, could turn out as high as 28 percent or as low as 14 percent.
Is that true category?
He even talked about facts and lore of the eclipse, saying mosquitoes will come out as sunlight dims and small animals will behave as if it’s night. He said some claim that the horizon will look like a mid-day sunset.
He said people will be excited when the eclipse is over, so plan to celebrate. Lanning has stocked up with Oreo cookies.