Next one 152 years away

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED ILLUSTRATION - The Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse will be visible from a 60-mile wide swathe that crosses the country, from Oregon to Georgia. Viewing is best from near the center of the swathe, which means Madras will be a key area for viewing, according to OMSI.It's still two and one-half years away, but local officials are already gearing up for an event that may "eclipse" all others in the volume of people it brings to Madras.

On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, the city will be front and center for a once-in-a-lifetime event: a total solar eclipse, according to Joe Krenowicz, executive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce .

"From preliminary discussions with the OMSI director of space science education, we will be inundated with photographers and solar eclipse followers from all over the world, let alone many general enthusiasts who will travel a day or two from the Pacific Northwest region and surrounding states," said Krenowicz, who also expects local, regional and national media.

Photo Credit: TOM CULBERTSON - On Aug. 21, 2017, the moon will gradually align with the sun, creating a total solar eclipse, visible from Madras.During a total solar eclipse, the moon passes directly between the earth and the sun, totally obscuring the image of the sun. In this case, the eclipse will last a little less than three minutes.

"It's going to be an amazing event," said Jim Todd, director of space science education at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. "If we don't see it on that day, it won't happen again for 152 years."

Todd explained that there is at least one total eclipse of the sun somewhere on earth every year, but most of the time, it's not in a convenient location. The last total solar eclipse in the Northwest was on Feb. 26, 1979.

More common are partial eclipses, which occur when the sun and moon are not perfectly aligned, and annular eclipses, which occur when the sun and moon are perfectly in line, but the moon appears smaller, so the sun appears as a ring around the moon.

In 2017, the total eclipse will be visible from a 60-mile-wide swathe of the country from Oregon to South Carolina.

"Madras is fortunate, like Salem," said Todd. "It's going to be directly on the center line of the totality of the event. You will see the moon completely blocking the sun for three minutes. The amazing effect you see is you go from almost day to night for that three minutes. It's an emotional experience."

The eclipse will pass from Oregon to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

"The shadow of the moon on the surface of the earth is racing across the United States for two to three hours," said Todd. "The first contact in Oregon will be at Siletz Bay at 10:16 a.m., and at Boise (Idaho) at 11:26 a.m."

"The cool thing about Madras is, at the airport, we will be able to see the shadow move over Mount Hood, Jefferson, the Three Sisters and so on, before it hits the airport, and then vice versa; we will see the shadow leave the Cascades before it leaves the airport. It's going to be a phenomenal event," said Todd, noting that very little of the world's population will ever see a total solar eclipse.

Krenowicz anticipates crowds of up to 25,000 people. "The eclipse is on the Monday prior to the annual Airshow of the Cascades, and it is on the chamber's radar to plan with local businesses," he said.

Local hotels are already booked up for the event, or taking waiting lists for reservations.

"You can never start planning too early for these things," said Todd. "Total eclipses happen about once a year, somewhere on earth, but they're usually in very out-of-the-way places."

"There are groups of diehard eclipse chasers who think these are so beautiful, they travel to the far corners of the earth to see them," he continued. "Their planning begins years in advance, and usually entails difficult travel to the remotest parts of the earth. For the 2017 eclipse, we get to see one right smack dab in the middle of good old American soil."

Todd said that neither Portland nor Bend will offer a view of the total eclipse.

"You must be in the path of totality to experience the glory of a total eclipse. If where you are is not in the path of totality, then move yourself into it on eclipse day, and you will come away understanding what we're talking about," he said. "Miss it, and you miss everything; you'll have no idea what all the people who were in the path are raving about the day after, and you will have missed it."

Todd recommended that parents ensure that they and their children have viewing glasses to watch the eclipse. "They will remember it for the rest of their lives, and you will be their supreme hero for having shown them that something this beautiful exists on the earth we all share."

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