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Eclipse focus of July 17 Flint River Astronomy Club meeting

The Barnesville Science Cafe will host a discussion on The Great North American Eclipse of 2017 at their July 17 meeting. The total solar eclipse to take place August 21 has attracted worldwide attention and it is likely to be the biggest event in astronomy this year. Gordon State College astronomy professor Dr. Richard Schmude will join Dr. Chad Davies and the Science Cafe at DB’s Pizzeria from 7- 9 p.m. on July 17 to discuss this once-in-a-lifetime event. He will share where and how the event can be viewed safely as well as some of the fascinating history associated with it. All are invited to attend the discussion and learn more on this astronomical phenomenon. A solar eclipse takes place when the moon’s orbital path takes it directly between the earth and the sun, blocking all or part of the sun’s light from view for a brief period. Earth is six times larger than the moon and when earth’s orbital path takes it between the moon and the sun in a lunar eclipse, earth’s dark shadow’” the umbra’” is large enough to cover the entire lunar surface. The shadow cast by the moon onto earth is much smaller in a solar eclipse and unless a location is inside the lunar umbral shadow, it will not see the total eclipse. The umbra’s path across the United States is called the area of totality. How much of the sun remains visible during the eclipse will depend on how close a location is to the area of totality. Most of the U.S. will see up to 90 percent of the sun covered by the moon. As the moon travels across the sky on August 21, the umbra will enter the U.S. in Oregon and forge a path through twelve states before heading out to sea near Charleston, S.C. These states include Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, southern Illinois, Missouri, western Kentucky, Tennessee, western North Carolina, northeast Georgia and South Carolina. Though Barnesville does not lie in the eclipse’s area of totality, residents should still be able to experience a partial eclipse. Less than 10 percent of the sun’s light will remain visible throughout the eclipse locally. This is still enough to be harmful to the eyes, so residents are urged to use caution when viewing the eclipse. Looking directly at the sun without adequate protection for the eyes is extremely dangerous and regular sunglasses will not provide adequate protection. Flint River Astronomy Club Vice President Bill Warren suggests specially made solar sunglasses, number 14 welder’s glass or pinhole projection for adequate protection in viewing the eclipse. During the eclipse, viewers will see the moon slowly eat a large chunk of the sun and the sky will darken considerably. The sun will not be visible, so solar sunglasses will not be needed until it reappears a minute or so later. During that time, viewers will see stars they don’t normally see in the daytime. Even if the sky is completely overcast, viewers will see sunset, the darkness of night and sunrise compressed into three hours between 1-4 p.m. Birds and farm animals will bed down for the night, and roosters will crow during the false dawn. Thousands of eclipse enthusiasts from across the U.S. and abroad are expected to make the trek to an area of totality that day, while others wonder why they would want to take this trip. An eclipse does not begin or end with totality; there are also periods of partial eclipse on either side of it. In Atlanta and surrounding areas that are not in the path of totality, for example, the partial eclipse will begin at 1:05 p.m.; maximum darkness will be at 2:36 p.m.; and the eclipse will end at 4:01 p.m. Total solar eclipses are rare and the chances of Barnesville lying in the path of totality are once in every 330 years. In addition, this will be the first solar eclipse to be visible as a partial eclipse in all 48 states (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) since 1979. The last time one was visible from coast to coast was in 1918. For those interested in viewing this astronomical occurrence in totality, numerous eclipse route maps are on the web. Northeastern Georgia locations including Brasstown Bald, Blue Ridge, Blairsville, Helen, Hiawassee, Clarkesville, Toccoa and Clayton will all experience the total eclipse with Clayton having the longest period of totality at two minutes, thirty seconds. Source: Flint River Astronomy Club

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