The Great American Eclipse is coming, and our fingers are crossed for clear skies.
Starting at 1:05 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, folks in Lorain County will be able to watch the moon pass in front of the sun. By 2:30 p.m., it will blot out 81 percent of the sun’s face, then start to move away. The event will be over by 3:50 p.m.
We won’t be privy to the best show.
A 70-mile-wide swath of the United States will get to see a total eclipse, with the moon obscuring the entire sun. The full eclipse will be visible from Salem, Ore., to Charleston, S.C.
If you want to see the full eclipse in all its glory, you’ll have to hop in your car and drive 368 miles south to the Kentucky-Tennessee border. That’s the nearest spot where “totality,” as astronomers call it, will occur.
This solar eclipse is the first to sweep the entire United States from coast to coast in 99 years, which is why there’s such a fever around it.
It’s special because so many people will have a chance to see it. NASA has estimated that more than 200 million Americans live within a day’s drive of the totality zone.
“Usually when there’s a total solar eclipse, you have to travel somewhere to see it. It’s very very uncommon for us to have an eclipse that’s easy to get to,” said Steven Schauer, president of the Black River Astronomical Society.
“This one we can see totality as close as Kentucky, so that’s very unusual,” he said. “So often the eclipse path is out over the ocean somewhere, or it’s out over the Arctic, or it’s in a country that’s not terribly friendly to Americans.”
Here in Northern Ohio, the show in the sky will be exciting for observers. But don’t expect a midday blackout.
The 19 percent of the sun left shining at the partial eclipse’s peak here will be enough to keep the sky lit, Schauer said. It will feel like a cloud has passed over the sun, creating a slight dimming.
The Black River Astronomical Society will hold a public viewing party from 2-3 p.m. at the Burrell Homestead, 2792 East River Rd., Sheffield Village.
Members will have specially shielded solar telescopes that are safe for viewing the eclipse. They’ll also sell $1 solar eclipse glasses.
Many astronomy enthusiasts will leave Lorain County that day, en route to the totality zone.
David Lengyel, a former Amherst Steele High School science teacher who now runs the Oberlin College observatory, said he expects a mass migration by astronomers. That’s why his observatory atop Peters Hall won’t have a watch party.
“We’re all leaving town,” he laughed. “I’ve seen a lot of partial eclipses over the years. I think I saw my first one when I was a teenager and I had a small telescope. I projected the image of the sun on a little white card. It was cool, and I’ve seen a lot of them since then.”
But there’s nothing compared to the majesty of a total eclipse. “It’s like night and day — no pun intended,” Lengyel said.
An 81 percent partial eclipse is still an excellent one. It’s certainly the best Ohio has witnessed in decades.
We’ll get our own full solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Mark it on your calendar now and hope the notorious spring weather cooperates.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.