Wednesday, August 9, 2017

UIS Professor John Martin: Southern Illinois will be epicenter for August 21 Solar Eclipse

Plans have been in the works for years at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and a vast portion of southern Illinois for the total solar eclipse which will translate across the campus sky on Monday, Aug. 21.

The total eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina during the afternoon hours of the day. A solar eclipse occurs when the orbit of the moon passes in front of the sun, causing darkness for a few moments during the daytime. According to NASA experts, southern Illinois will have the longest duration of darkness during the event, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

This is the first time in 99 years a total eclipse will be seen across the continental United States.

While the path of totality will be about 150 miles to the south of Pana, this area will be exposed to a partial eclipse – between 94 and 96% – according to University of Illinois Springfield astronomer Dr. John Martin. “Of course, in southern Illinois, the eclipse is total,” Martin said. “In the Pana, Decatur, Springfield, Jacksonville area, it will be a little less than totality. It won’t be quite as spectacular because the sun is so bright, even four or five percent of sunshine will be subdued. It will become just a little dark, something like a cloudy day.”

Dr. Martin has been with UIS since 2006 in the Physics and Astronomy Department. He is the host of the university’s “star parties” which are held periodically at night at the observatory at UIS.

In this area, Dr. Martin says the apex of the solar eclipse will occur around 1:18 p.m. on Aug. 21.
According to the NASA website, the event will begin at 11:52 a.m. and conclude at 2:44 p.m. in the Pana area.

He warns people – especially in this area – not to look directly at the eclipse because they could sustain eye damage. “Even with 97% of the sun blocked out, it can still damage the eyes,” he warns. “It would be like looking directly at an arc welding.” He suggests someone use a welder’s helmet glass to view the eclipse in this area. He said there are local retailers who have special eclipse glasses for sale.

However, the “100% safest way” to view the event is to make a “pin hole camera” and view it indirectly.

“Just seven years from now, in 2024, Carbondale will once again be in the path of totality of another eclipse,” Martin said. “But this eclipse will move from the southwest to the northeast. This is a very rare occurrence – something on the order of once every 1,000 or 2,000 years.”

This story was printed in the Pana News-Palladium on July 31, 2017.

Read the entire story online.