The Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce recently heard a presentation from St. Louis Astronomical Society Amateur Astronomer Don Ficken on the upcoming eclipse.
Ficken came prepared with a slideshow, map, Styrofoam ball on a stick and a flashlight to demonstrate how the eclipse will make its way across the region.
“Something I think is exciting is that the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse is the first total solar eclipse near St. Louis since the year 1442,” said Ficken. “So it’s been a long time and if you want to hang around the next one is 2505.”
Ficken said eclipses aren’t that rare, but it’s rare to be in the eclipse. There are 12 states involved in the eclipse and 12 million people are expected to be within the whole phase of totality.
“That sounds like a lot of people, but if you think about this, the U.S. has 330 million people,” said Ficken. “It’s really a three-hour event and it will start a little bit before lunch at 11:50 a.m. Most likely schools will be in session and it will be a Monday.”
Ficken said the moon will very slowly cover the sun and that will take about an hour and a half to do it. Then the moon will move off the sun and by 2:44 p.m. it will be all done.
“During the process of the eclipse, right before totality happens, at 1:16 p.m. in this area, the moon will begin moving completely in front of the sun,” said Ficken. “About five to 10 minutes before that happens it will start getting more noticeably and visibly darker. Venus will come out near the sun and then about two to three more minutes before totality, the skies in the west will start to darken.”
Ficken added it will start looking like it’s getting really dark and the animals will start to think it is night. He explained if anyone has a field of fireflies they will start coming out at that point.
“The one minute before totality shadow bands, which is like the bottom of a pool, it will ripple,” said Ficken. “The last few seconds you will have a thing called Bailey's Beads. The moon is actually not round, it has mountains and the light will peek through here and it will create little sparkles of light called Bailey’s Beads.”
Ficken said the last that will happen will be thing called a diamond ring, which is the very last speed of sunlight. At that point the sun will go away and up until that point viewers will have had to wear safety glasses or eclipse glasses.
“There will be nothing to see as far as the sun and you can take your protection off to look at where the sun was,” explained Ficken. “Around the sun will be the corona, which the only time you can see it is during a total solar eclipse.”
Ficken said literally if viewers have good eyes, they can see the flames coming off the sun. There will a lot of things going on around everyone. The temperature will drop 5 degrees and the wind may shift.
“It’s one of those experiences that you really can’t photograph, but you can describe,” said Ficken. “At that point you will be able to look up and see Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and brighter stars it will be a full moon darkness, but it won’t be completely dark.”
Ficken said the process will then go in reverse. He said Bonne Terre is closer to the center of the span of the eclipse and it is a big deal. It is an opportunity to draw people to the area because they want to be in the center of the path.
The moons shadow is 70 miles wide and only hits 12 states in America and that is why it is called the Great American Eclipse. For more information on the eclipse visit NationalEclipse.com.
The Bonne Terre Airport will have their gates open to the public to come out and view the full solar eclipse that day and they will have special eclipse glasses available at a reasonable price.