Chances are really good that most Americans will be located in a 70-mile zone across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina on Aug. 21, 2017, to see a total solar eclipse.
The maximum solar eclipse will last for less than three minutes and places like Leavenworth will get about one minute and 30 seconds while Lansing will get about one minute of totality. On the other hand, the south end of Rosecrans Field near Saint Joseph will get the maximum of two minutes, 40 seconds.
So, Saint Joseph is planning for a pretty big party at Rosecrans that day as some estimates are for 500,000 people to attempt to get to the airfield. I assume that the airfield itself will be closed and that there will have to be bus transportation because there is not adequate parking for that many cars near Rosecrans.
Saint Joseph is planning to have plenty of vendors and activities for families to enjoy as most people will want to arrive early and the actual total eclipse only lasts for less than three minutes. The eclipse will be begin at about noon and it will take about an hour to become full, which is when you can observe the corona around the sun without eye protection.
I attended the one year pre-con at the UMKC observatory where they explained that the moon will entirely block the solar radiation in the zone of totality for those few precious minutes, but that you absolutely must have eye protection from the radiation during the rest of the eclipse. I even bought enough glasses for my entire family and those family members that intend to drive from Lake Michigan to be here for the eclipse.
If you would like to buy the glasses through which you can safely view the sun you need to visit the UMKC observatory. They are only $2 each, so do not cheat yourself by trying to use some other less safe method. While you are at it, you might as well just show up on any Friday evening at Grant Hall and enjoy an evening of star gazing on the roof top and get your glasses at that time.
UMKC has a roof top observatory with some excellent telescopes and if you get bored you can just enjoy the magnificent view of Kansas City from that elevation. They have a multi-story parking garage across the street so even the parking is very close and free.
Apparently many hotels that are in the path of totality are already booked, although I have not checked with the hotels in Leavenworth and Lansing. I also do not know whether there are any watch parties planned for the total in eclipse in Leavenworth. I assume that there will be some pretty big parties in places like Jackson Hole and Casper, Wyoming, which lie on the best part of the path.
Closer to home, Grand Island, Nebraska, is right on the center of the path and so is Hiawatha and Troy, Kansas.
It was reported at the pre-con at UMKC that state parks on the path are already booked. The lady at the pre-con representing Saint Joseph has experienced eight total eclipses, which means that she has traveled the world to see them. Practically speaking, that means that people from around the world are likely to be seeking good locations in the United States from which to view the total solar eclipse.
As a last thought on the total eclipse, a recommendation was to create your own certificate of observation for your grandchildren so that they would have something by which to remember this event many years from now. They also suggested that you record things that happen such as the change in temperature, animal-related things like nocturnal activities, etc.
I’ve got enough glasses for the entire family and just have to plan where to be and I am looking forward to the total solar eclipse about one year from now.
Matt Nowak is a retired natural resources specialist and lives in Lansing.