Weird things happen during the eclipse
Picture some of these scenarios:
Birds confused by perhaps the shortest night ever.
Rippling shadows or shadows taking the shape of a crescent sun.
Stars coming out only several hours after sunrise.
People watching the Aug. 21 solar eclipse in Crook County can expect to see some weird stuff during the three hours the cosmic event takes place and particularly during the approximately two minutes of totality where the moon completely blocks the sun.
Dr. Scott Fisher, a physics professor at University of Oregon, has spent the past few weeks giving lectures on what happens during an eclipse. His discussions have not only touched on the astronomy of the event, but the oddities the event creates in the natural environment.
"It turns out there are a handful of different effects that you will see, especially in Prineville where you live in the path of totality," he said.
Two of those effects involve the appearance of shadows. Fisher explained that the total duration of the solar eclipse will last about three hours, likely starting around 9 a.m., with totality occurring around 10:20 a.m. and the event concluding just before noon.
During the minutes leading up to totality, he said the shadows will take on the shape of the crescent sun as it's covered by the moon.
"So if you happen to be standing under a tree where there is a lot of mottled light, what you will see is the shadows actually have the shape of the sun," Fisher said.
He said the effect is most easily witnessed in an area where there is a cluster of little light patches rather than with larger shadows.
As totality occurs, two other unusual phenomena transpire, one of which is known as shadow bands.
"For maybe just 30 seconds or so before totality happens … the shadows actually look like you are looking through a pool of water. The shadows themselves will ripple even though you are not moving," Fisher said. "It happens because right in those last few seconds when the moon is about to cover the entire disc (sun), a little bit of light sort of gets bent around the moon. That light interferes with itself, but you get these really cool looking shadow bands."
Also during a minute-long stretch near totality, some people will be able to not only see shadows pass across the landscape quickly, they will pass from west to east rather than east to west. Fisher said this phenomenon will be easiest to see for people situated near a west-facing, wide-open expanse of land.
In addition to the shadow anomalies, local eclipse viewers will experience some unique changes in weather as well some events more typically associated with nightfall. For example, around 9 a.m., the sky will gradually darken as more and more of the sun is covered by the moon. Then as totality nears, the sky gets much darker, to the point where the stars will come out.
"It is not going to be like a pitch-black dark night, but a really heavy dusk," Fisher said. "But absolutely the sky will be dark enough that you can see the stars."
As the rare morning darkness hits, people can expect the temperature to suddenly drop around 5 to 10 degrees.
"It is sort of like if you are standing in a really bright sunlight on a hot day and you move into a nice shady spot," Fisher said. "That might kick up a breeze, too — nothing really strong, though."
As the nighttime conditions emerge, birds will often assume it is time for bed and go back to roost for the night.
"I always think that has to be confusing for the poor birds," Fisher remarked. "They barely get in the nest and it turns bright again."
Fisher recommends that people in the Prineville and Crook County area take time to enjoy the solar eclipse and all of the unusual occurrences that come with it. And while doing so, he stresses viewing safety.
"Be careful with your eyes and use the solar eclipse glasses," he said.