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Get your glasses, it’s an eclipse worth seeing

July 26, 2017 GMT

After weeks of hot, dry conditions, most Nebraskans would welcome a cool, cloudy rainy day.

As long as it isn’t Monday, Aug. 21.

On that day, many Nebraskans — as well as people across the country — are hoping for clear skies and sunshine. That’s the only way they’ll be able to witness an astrological phenomenon that will occur when the sun will be hidden behind the moon to cause a solar eclipse.

Even though it will be early afternoon in Nebraska, daylight will become twilight, the temperature will drop, stars may come out, the planet Venus will be visible and animals will become silent, said Dr. Todd Young, director of the Fred G. Dale Planetarium at Wayne State College.

“The real star of the show will be the sun’s corona,” Young said.

It is a layer of plasma that surrounds the sun and is most easily visible during an eclipse.

It’s being called the Great American Eclipse because it will be visible in totality only within a band across the entire contiguous United States.

The last total solar eclipse viewed from contiguous United States was on Feb. 26, 1979. Then the path passed through the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

After the August solar eclipse, the next annular solar eclipse that can be seen in the continental United States will be on Oct. 14, 2023. It will be visible from northern California to Florida. Following that, the United States will experience total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 that will be visible from Texas to Maine.

Totality means the moon will completely block the sun. In Nebraska, that phenomenon will happen in an approximately 70-mile wide band whose center line runs through Alliance, Tryon, Stapleton, Ravenna, Grand Island and Falls City.

The length of totality is highest along the middle of that band, Young said. For instance, Alliance will be in totality for 2 minutes and 30 seconds while Scottsbluff will be in totality for 1 minute and 42 seconds. Grand Island will be in totality for 2 minutes and 34 seconds, and Lincoln will be in totality for 1 minute and 24 seconds.

Even during totality, “it won’t be like the dead of night,” he added.

Although Northeast Nebraska is not on the path of totality, the eclipse will still have an impact. In this area, the moon will cover 97 percent of the sun, Young said, so it will have much of the same effect that it has along the path of totality.

“A partial eclipse is something to enjoy,” Young added. “It’s still going to be awesome.”

People here who want to view the eclipse will have to take the same precautions just like people who are in the path of totality. Most important is the fact that viewers must wear special glasses when looking at it because regular sunglasses are not sufficient, Young said.

“That 3 percent of light that passes still has enough ultraviolet light to burn the retina (of the eye) ... and cause permanent damage,” he said.

The only safe time to look at the eclipse without wearing glasses is while totality is taking place, Young said. That means Northeast Nebraskans will have to keep their glasses on since this area is not in the path of totality.

“Hopefully, adults will understand that kids need to keep their glasses on,” Young said.

And, hopefully, the people coming to Nebraska from around the world will have their glasses in their pockets.

In fact, the Nebraska Department of Travel and Tourism estimates that between 120,000 and 400,000 people will be visiting the state to watch the eclipse.

They will be spreading across the state in search of the best viewing spot, said Angela Sears, the department’s marketing manager.

Even towns that aren’t in the path of totality should feel the impact, she added.

Many towns are enticing visitors with special programs and events.

For instance, representatives from NASA will be doing programs at the Homestead National Monument near Beatrice. Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island is preparing to host more than 10,000 people on its grounds.

Scottsbluff and Gering are hosting “Moon Over The Monument” that will include dancers, musicians, food vendors and more. Hastings is having “Soulfest” that offers musicians and artists, and Alliance is having a three-day festival that will include educational programs, music, church services and much more.

People who hope to make hotel reservations in any of the smaller towns along the path of totality may be out of luck, Sears said. Campgrounds are filling if not already full.

Nebraska is a popular viewing site because it’s so wide open, she added.

Regardless of where they come from, Todd Young said he believes people who witness the eclipse are in for a treat.

“This will be two minutes that people will remember all of their lives,” he said.