Total (Solar) Eclipse of the Heart... of the Sandhills

By Berklie Haag

During the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, Nebraska will be the best seat in the house. On August 21, at 478 miles, Nebraska will host the longest Path of Totality- the moment that the sun is blocked 100 percent- in the United States, so it’s time to plan your eclipse viewing party. 

The total solar eclipse will last about two-and-a-half hours from beginning to end and will cycle through 5 phases. 

The first phase is a partial eclipse phase called the First Contact that will last about an hour. During this phase, the moon will touch the edge of the sun and continue to eat a hole into the side. A silvery atmosphere will be created once the moon covers the sun about 90 percent.  Shadows will be sharper, the temperature will drop, and everything will appear eerie. Eclipse glasses will be needed during this phase. Also be aware of Baily’s Beads and Shadow Bands during this phase. Baily’s Beads will appear for a split-second before the sun is completely covered by the moon. Rays of sunlight will pour through the valleys of the moon causing a bead effect. Shadow bands are extremely rare and can only be seen on flat surfaces. Shadow bands can sometimes appear rippling across the surface of flat objects like sand or snow. 

The Second Contact is when the last rays of sunlight create a Diamond Ring around the moon. Eclipse safety glasses can be removed during this phase. An eerie, silver light will overtake the enviroment but the horizon will remain brightly lit. 

The exact moment that the Sun is blocked 100% by the moon is referred to as Totality. The Solar Corona appears to some as wispy white fingers and to others as white flowers blooming. Use binoculars to look around the edges of the eclipse to spot red solar flares or planets. 

During the Third Contact, the eclipe moves into reverse. Baily’s Beads will appear on the opposite side of the moon. Then there will be a flash of light because the sun is no longer covered, and for a few seconds, the Diamond Ring will flash around the moon. Safety Eclipse Glasses need to go back on at this point. 

The Fourth Contact signals the end of the eclipse. The Moon appears to barely kiss the edge of the Sun, and then it will depart onto its 28-day orbit around the Earth. 

 The Gordon Public Library has Eclipse Safety Glasses that are available for public use to enhance eclipse viewing. Sides and Milburn Ford in Rushville and the Gordon Chamber of Commerce also have Eclipse Glasses for $2 a pair. 

The Gordon Memorial Hospital will be selling eclipse t-shirts for $10 a shirt.

According to many sources one of the best places to see this phenomenon is from Carhenge in Alliance, Nebrasaka.

The Rushville Chamber is working with the Nebraska Game and Parks and will host a solar eclipse viewing party at Smith Lake on August 21. They will also have various activities like live music and food set up at the Sandridge Golf Course in Rushville on Sunday, August 20. 

Even if you can’t make it to these locations, the total solar eclipse will be visible all across the state of Nebraska and most of the United States. 

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