ECLIPSE will give us an eyeful
Jim Todd is more than a little excited for Oregon's total solar eclipse event next month.
He's been looking forward to it since 1979, when he was a senior in high school in Goldendale, Washington, and a total solar eclipse crossed over much of the Pacific Northwest.
"I've had that date in my mind since then, honestly," says Todd, who is now the director of space science education at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Professionally, he and his team at OMSI began planning for the eclipse three years ago, as the astronomy community — and then the general public — started buzzing about this rare solar phenomenon that happens two to three times per year but is rarely visible in the U.S.
The "path of totality" will stretch for 62 miles, starting when it touches land between Lincoln City and Newport on the Oregon coast, stretching southeastward to communities including Salem, Corvallis, Albany, Madras, John Day and Ontario before continuing its path across the U.S. toward South Carolina.
It's the first time it touches the U.S. mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918.
During the two minutes of totality — between 10:15 a.m. and 10:27 a.m. in Oregon — we'll see what's called the corona, or the crown, "an absolute spectacle," Todd says. You'll have a glow. The only time you can see that is when the sun is blocked."
People in that path of totality in Oregon will see it for just two minutes of total darkness before it sweeps southeast, traveling almost 3,000 miles per hour and crossing the state of Oregon in just nine minutes.
In 90 minutes, it will cross the entire U.S., from the West Coast to East Coast. "It's the length of a movie," Todd says. "I don't recommend anyone go watch a movie during the eclipse. They'll miss the whole thing."
One million people are expected to come to Oregon for the event, since it's poised for the best weather and viewing conditions.
Over the course of the past two years, hotels, campgrounds and events in the path of totality have largely sold out, with international travelers, astronomy geeks and curiosity seekers driving the traffic.
The Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which Todd is spearheading for OMSI in Salem, sold out quickly with 8,000 attendees.
The best thing to do now? Watch it from Portland, where you will still have 99 percent darkness.
In Portland, the sky won't fall pitch black, but it will drop to what feels like an overcast day, with a small glow of blue sky at the top where the moon's silhouette almost completely covers the sun.
You will still need to wear solar eclipse viewing glasses, certified by the ISO or CE. "Never take your glasses off for a partial (eclipse) ever," Todd says. "That 1 percent can still damage your eye."
You may also be able to see Venus during the partial eclipse; Venus, Mars and Mercury will be visible for total eclipse viewers.
"Oregon is not going to have ever seen anything like this before," says Todd, who's been at OMSI for 33 years.
Once you recover from this year's eclipse, you can start planning for Oregon's "annular" eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023. That's when a disc of the moon will be smaller than the sun, appearing as a ring of fire in the sky.
As if it couldn't get any more spectacular, the center line will be over Crater Lake.
"It's not totality," Todd says, "but it's still an amazing eclipse."
For more about the Aug. 21 event: greatamericaneclipse.com/oregon.