Rural Missouri - July 2017 - 30
Dark side of the Moon
Missouri a sweet spot for viewing total solar eclipses
by Zach Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
planning an eclipse viewing event to be held in Jefferson City. The capital city
was named one of 15 "perfect places" to view the event by Smithsonian Magazine. A total solar eclipse hasn't happened there since 1275, so it's fair to call
this one a signiﬁcant phenomenon.
"People always want to know how many people you are expecting and it's
terribly difﬁcult to predict for something that's never happened before," Eugene
says. "Whatever happens, we're all going to be overwhelmed."
n Aug. 21 around 1 p.m., the sun will go on a short summer vacation.
For a little more than two and a half minutes, depending on where
you are, the sky will be as dark as a full moon night and the temperature will plummet 10 degrees. The sun will be hidden behind the
moon as the 2017 total solar eclipse passes over Missouri.
Unlike lunar eclipses or the more common partial or annular solar eclipses
Science and Scenery
where the moon only obscures part of the sun and light still reaches Earth,
Since the last total solar eclipse hit the continental U.S. in 1979, Angela says
a solar eclipse is a unique event. It hasn't happened anywhere in the state
excitement is high in the scientiﬁc community. Across the country, sciensince 1869, but two will pass through Missouri over the
tists will be studying the eclipse's effects on plant and animal life, weather
next seven years.
"What you see is the corona, which is the atmosphere
and human biology. Will cicadas chirp? Will birds ﬂock? Will corn plants
of the sun," says Angela Speck, director of astronomy at
unfurl their leaves? Does the change in atmospheric pressure create
the University of Missouri. "If you've got a clear sky, it's dark
wind currents? Although eclipses have been studied for thousands of
years, their effects on Earth still pose these questions.
enough to see stars."
That sight occurs on the path of totality, which is a roughly
"We have an eclipse on the planet almost every year so we get
70-mile band stretching across the state. The centerline - where
lots of anecdotal evidence but we don't necessarily have a good
viewers will see the eclipse the longest - runs from St. Joseph
systematic study," Angela says. "Because it's going to be over
the U.S. for a long time we're able to collect a lot more data
to Ste. Genevieve. Southeast Missourians are a little luckier than
and test a lot of these ideas."
most: They'll see the next total eclipse in 2024.
Because of their relative rarity, total solar eclipses also
Weather predictions, at least for now, are in favor of a clear
bring eclipse chasers. The August eclipse will be the third
view. If skies are cloudy, the corona and stars will not be visible,
for Bob Sullentrup of St. Charles, but his ﬁrst on dry land.
but the darkness and temperature changes will still be apparent.
And if you don't live in the path of the eclipse and can't travel
He and his family took a cruise to see an eclipse in the Caribbean in 1998 and again on the Black Sea in 1999. Bob, who
there, don't worry: The sun will still put on a show.
was born in the nearby town of Washington, says the 2017 eclipse has
"A fair fraction of the country gets to see a really signiﬁcant partial,"
Angela adds. "At that point it's impressively skinny, the little sliver of the sun special meaning for him.
"I ﬁrst heard about this in 1958 when I was in the second grade," Bob recalls.
that can still be seen."
Eugene Vale is one sky watcher hoping to complete his "set" with the total "I saw this map of eclipses and that one was coming near St. Louis in 2017. I
eclipse. An interpretive research specialist for Missouri State Parks, he's been tucked it in the back of my mind."
RURAL MISSOURI | JULY 2017