by Ivan Foley
Skywatchers are getting ready to experience a total solar eclipse this summer.
Platte County will be one of the prime spots for the once-in-a-lifetime celestial event in August. Platte County could also turn into a magnet for tourists that weekend.
It’s Platte County’s geographic location “in the path of totality” (see graphic above) that will make it a popular destination spot for the Monday, Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
Platte City, for instance, will experience two minutes, 10 seconds of darkness when the total eclipse happens at 1:06 p.m. that day.
Slightly north of here, in St. Joseph to be exact, is the most prime spot for viewing. St. Joseph will go dark for two minutes, 38 seconds.
According to Space.com, under the path of a total solar eclipse, “people across the United States will see the sun disappear behind the moon, turning daylight into twilight, causing the temperature to drop rapidly and revealing massive streamers of light streaking through the sky around the silhouette of the moon.”
Some local sky watchers are encouraging folks to put their cell phones away and experience the moment to the fullest.
“Let the experts capture the photos of it,” suggests Jennifer Goering, executive director of the Platte County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
The so-called Great American Total Solar Eclipse will darken skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina, along a stretch of land about 70 miles (113 kilometers) wide. People who descend upon this "path of totality" for the big event are in for an unforgettable experience, the experts say.
Local convention and visitors bureau officials are excited about the possibilities. Area hotels are already starting to see some group reservations specific to the total eclipse.
“I think Platte County hotels will be close to full occupancy that weekend (Aug. 18-20) as there will also be a 10,000 person convention in downtown Kansas City as well (Nobles of the Mystic Shrine),” says Goering.
Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, said this is a “once in a lifetime thing, maybe pull your kids out of school for it” type event.
St. Joseph officials are expecting a huge crowd to hit their city.
“St. Joseph is anticipating anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 people,” Goering said Monday during a presentation to the Platte County Commission.
Here in Platte County, some public viewing events are being planned the day of the Aug. 21 event. One of the public gathering spots will be Platte Ridge Park, located north of Platte City along Hwy. 371. The park will be open with concession stands operating.
“We are working with Platte County Parks and Recreation now regarding the viewing event at Platte Ridge Park. With the shelter, there are options to have special demonstrations prior to the actual total eclipse. University Extension Office will be contacted to see what resources they might have as well as including their participant groups,” Goering said.
Goering said several private businesses, including some wineries and distilleries, are planning special promotions and activities around the total eclipse weekend.
She said no school activities surrounding the total eclipse have yet been announced. “But I expect that to change,” said the CVB director.
PROTECTIVE EYE WEAR
The experts say anyone planning to view the total solar eclipse of 2017 should get a pair of solar viewing glasses. These protective shades make it possible for observers to look directly at the sun before and after totality. The following four companies sell eclipse glasses that meet the international standard (ISO 12312-2) recommended by NASA, the AAS and other scientific organizations: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.
Goering says the Platte County CVB will be purchasing 5,000 Eclipse Shades.
“These solar safety glasses will be distributed to the area hotels for their guests/staff as well as be available to the public at the Platte Ridge Park viewing event,” Goering said.
Sunglasses cannot be used in place of solar viewing glasses for sufficient protection.
Experts say looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or blindness. Never look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection.
During totality, when the disk of the sun is completely covered by the moon, it is safe to look up at the celestial sight with the naked eye. Binoculars are helpful for seeing more detail in the solar corona. Telescopes are not necessary, but some skywatchers may use low-powered telescopes.
According to Space.com, skywatchers outside the path of totality will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse. Solar viewing glasses allow skywatchers to look directly at the moon's progress across the face of the sun. You can also view the progress of a partial solar eclipse using a pinhole camera.
You have to be able to see the sun if you want to see the eclipse. If your area’s forecast looks cloudy in the days and hours before the eclipse, serious skywatchers may choose to go somewhere else to see it.
Your location must be inside the path of totality in order for you to see the whole show, experts say. You’ll want a clear, unobstructed view of the entire western horizon.