Rare total eclipse mostly visible from Plumas

For the first time in decades, a solar eclipse is expected to dominate the mid-morning sky across the Northwestern United States next Monday, Aug. 21.

Unfortunately, Plumas County lies outside the visible range of what scientists call the total eclipse zone, so there will always be at least part of the sun shining throughout the eclipse. The moon will block approximately 90 percent of the sun over Plumas County during the height of the eclipse.

The next total eclipse that will be visible in the Plumas County area will not take place until 2045, so this eclipse might be the best chance for many locals to see a near full eclipse in person.

University of Nevada Reno’s Planetarium Director Dan Ruby explained that residents should expect the sky to darken during this part of the eclipse, especially if it is already overcast out.

Ruby said that the eclipse will reach its peak in Plumas at around 10:15 a.m. and that the eclipse is expected to last from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

The exact range of the total eclipse zone will be from the middle of Oregon to the eastern shores of South Carolina, and will include several Mid-Western states in between.

Rare event

The eclipse is an interesting astronomical phenomenon that occurs rarely in any given region of the globe.

During an eclipse, the moon passes in front of the sun and casts a crisp, 70-mile wide shadow across the Earth’s surface.

The shadow that is projected by the moon races across earth at around 2,300 mph, with the upcoming solar eclipse expected to cross the entire United States in less than an hour-and-a-half.

Though the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, it is also 400 times closer to the earth than the sun, so during an eclipse they appear to be nearly identical in size.

This particular eclipse will veer sharply southward due to the curvature of the Earth and due to the fact that the moon’s orbit is tilted.

Popular celestial event

Already, hotels from Oregon to South Carolina are dealing with a massive increase in the number of tourists hoping to get a glimpse of the total eclipse.

Some tourists in both Oregon and South Carolina have also complained publicly that hotels canceled already-booked reservations to jack up prices in anticipation of a large boom in tourism.

Ruby says that he would not advise people to drive up to the total eclipse zone during the day of the eclipse, because the roads will be jam-packed with people trying to see the eclipse.

But it is not just people that will be affected by the eclipse.

Indeed, animals are also expected to change their behavior during the darkest minutes of the eclipse process.

Ruby explained that the near total darkness that the eclipse causes confuses animals and can make some nocturnal predators wake up early and begin hunting for food.

This might be of particular concern in Plumas, where wild predator sightings are common enough as it is.

Avoid eye damage

Because the sun will never be completely blocked by the sun, Ruby advises that eclipse spectators make their own eclipse viewing devices to watch the eclipse without the risk of eye damage.

A paper eclipse-viewing device can be constructed rather easily by poking a hole in a piece of paper and then looking through that hole towards another piece of paper that is angled towards the sun.

A projected image of the moon passing over the sun should appear on the loose paper that you angle toward the sun, and the hole in the paper close to your eyes should limit the glare that the image projects.

Welding goggles should also work well to block the harsh rays of the sun, as should solar eclipse goggles, which can be bought online. For those who may have purchased goggles online through Amazon, some buyers have received notices that the goggles shouldn’t be used. Use caution when purchasing eyeware.

Where to go

Though it is possible to view the near total eclipse from anywhere in Plumas County, there will be several eclipse viewing parties and gathering places in the area that residents might want to attend.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is expecting large crowds of spectators, especially around the height of the event at 10:15 a.m., and a viewing party will be held at C. Roy Carmichael Elementary School, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., in Portola, as well as at Leonard’s parking lot from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

After this eclipse ends, the next significant astronomical event in the area will be a lunar eclipse, which will cause the moon to turn blood red at around 4 a.m. on Jan. 31.

Tips on viewing solar eclipse

Go out early. The eclipse will peak around 10:15 a.m., but it is always best to set up ahead of time.

Be sure to buy your own eclipse goggles, attend events that provide them or construct your own to avoid damaging your eyes while watching the eclipse.

Check the weather in your area, because pesky clouds can block the sun and can ruin your view of the eclipse.

Organize a viewing party and invite friends and family so you can enjoy the eclipse with the ones you care about.

If a fire is still raging near you, drive away from the smoke so that it does not distort your view of the eclipse.

Avoid driving north to the total eclipse zone if possible, because traffic will be heavy.

Watch out for nocturnal predators that may wake up during the eclipse.

Tell everyone you know about the eclipse so that they can plan on seeing it, too.

Make sure you have a clear view of the eastern sky at all times.

Most importantly, do not stare at the eclipse directly! It might be a better view, but it isn’t worth the damage to the eyes that will result.