August 2017

Tony Martinez

Each month I will describe sights of interest in the night skies of South Carolina. These sights will be broken down into four sections; what you can see with the naked eye, with binoculars, with a small refracting telescope and with a Dobsonian reflector. The best time to view the night sky is at and around the times when the Moon is not visible, what is known as a New Moon; which will occur this month on August 21. For August, your best viewing nights will be from August 12 to the 27. The Star chart below is set for Florence, SC on August 15 at 9 pm. Note: A table of contents for earlier columns is located in the August 2016 column.

The Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017 – Part 2:
Note: To new readers, check out my July 2017 column for basic information about the eclipse. This month I will reinforce some of my column last month, and discuss some other eclipse related phenomena.

The eclipse time table is shown below.

By now, hopefully you have picked your viewing location. Assume you will experience the largest crowd of people you have ever seen. Don’t rely on GPS. Make sure you have either hard copy maps of the area, or have Google Maps on your smart phone. You may have to use small back roads to return home.

It’s August, dress cool and bring plenty of liquids to stay hydrated; use PowerAde or Gatorade type drinks to replenish your electrolytes. Put an ice cooler in the trunk. Make sure your gas tank is topped off when you arrive at your location. You may want to bring aspirin, antacids, or other medications you may need if you if you are delayed several hours before you can return home. Bring a small first aid kit. When you check out your viewing location, consider the availability of restroom facilities.

All these suggestions may seem to be overly cautious, but if they end up to be unneeded, no harm.

Special Shadows That No One Mentions:
Besides the shadow of the Moon on the Earth, there are other shadows that may amaze you, but no one will see them because they are watching the total eclipse of the Sun. These special shadows appear just before and just after totality, when everyone’s eyes are looking upwards.  These are the shadows of your surroundings.

All your life you have seen shadows outside when the Sun is out, and all these shadows are soft, with blurred edges. This is due to the sunlight coming from a large object, the Sun. However, just before and after a total solar eclipse, the still intense sunlight is coming from a narrow slit. The results, razor sharp shadows. This is the only time in your life that you will see razor sharp shadows outside; the effect is amazing, or to some, can be shocking. In 1970 during the total eclipse at Virginia Beach, one woman dropped her head to see these shadows and screamed, “It’s the end of the world”; true story. So why don’t you hear people mention it; they are all looking at the Sun.

So if you want two thrills during the 2017 eclipse, do the following.  Everyone will be counting down to totality. Between 2 minutes and 1 minute before totality, drop your eyes to ground level, take off your eclipse glasses and look around you, checking the shadows. Put your eclipse glasses on and look back at the Sun.  As totality approaches, repeat the procedure again. You may be amazed, but it is not the end of the world.

If you want to see this effect tonight, try this at home. You must have a high intensity single bulb LED flashlight. At night turn on a standard bulb lamp in your room, and note the soft shadow of some object on your wall. Now turn off the lamp and shine your bright flashlight on the object; sharp shadows. Note: These LED flashlights are also great for finding misplaced objects around the house; sharp shadows.

Another Special Shadow That No One Mentions:
This other special shadow is harder to detect. The phenomenon is called shadow bands. There is about a 50% chance that you will see these shadows during this eclipse. These shadows move on the ground like ripples. They are best seen on light colored surfaces, such as a beach. I plan to stake out a large white sheet on the ground in hopes of observing this interesting, but not shocking, effect; see below.

If you miss the total eclipse this month, you can wait 7 years and in 2024, drive 750 miles to Arkansas. Or, you can wait 28 years, and in 2045 drive 480 miles to Orlando, Florida. Or, you can wait 35 years and in 2052 drive 180 miles to Savannah, Georgia. Finally, as I mentioned above, for my young readers, you can wait 61 years, and in 2078, watch the total solar eclipse from your backyard in Florence; see below.

Now if for some reason you are unable to view the eclipse, you may plan for the 2024 eclipse. I have a personal thought on this subject. I predict that if you miss the 2017 eclipse, you probably will not drive over 700 miles to see the next one. However, if you do see the 2017 eclipse, you will drive over 700 miles to see the next one. Reason for my prediction: If you miss the 2017 eclipse, you won’t really know what you missed. If you see the 2017 eclipse, it will be so amazing, that you will want to see another one.

ScienceSouth will NOT be hosting an eclipse event on-site at the Pavilion.  However, our staff will be assisting with other eclipse programs around the state (information below).

The Dooley Planetarium will be hosting a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party starting at 11:30am on August 21st, 2017 at the Griffin Athletic Complex on the Francis Marion University campus.  Dr. Jeanette Myers, ScienceSouth staff and others will be passing out solar eclipse glasses to patrons as they enter the gates of the complex.  Participants will be able to engage in hands-on demonstrations, make UV bracelets and more.  For more information on this event and other events leading up to the solar eclipse, click the following links:  Dooley Planetarium Website and Dooley Planetarium Facebook Page

The City of Moncks Corner will be hosting a “Total Eclipse in the Park” event on August 21st, 2017 at the Regional Recreational Complex from 11:00am until 4:00pm.  Food trucks, icy treats and eclipse activities will be available to all patrons that attend.  ScienceSouth staff will be in attendance with solar telescopes, sunspotters and more.  For more information, click the website link:   Total Eclipse in the Park Event


Naked Eye Sights: The Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017.  The sky during totality, see below.

The Perseids Meteor shower peaking early morning on August 13.

Binocular Sights (7 to 10 power): The summer Milky Way deep sky objects.

Telescope Sights (60-100mm): Saturn and Jupiter.

Dobsonian telescope (6 -8 inch): Saturn and Jupiter.

See you next month!

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