All of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun, Monday, Aug. 21 (barring clouds). And, one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights — a total solar eclipse — will pass on a path just missing the far southwestern tip of Indiana. Hoosiers wanting to witness this rare perfect alignment of sun and moon and the sublime celestial show it creates won’t have far to go west or south to position themselves in the path.
While in this 70-mile wide swath that cuts across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, observers will see the moon completely cover the sun for over two and a half minutes, and the sun’s atmosphere — the corona — will be seen. The sky will turn to twilight and some planets and stars may emerge in the midday darkness. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon passes between the sun and the Earth.
From our vantage point in Indiana, we’ll see 85 to over 90 percent of the sun’s surface covered at the height of the eclipse. But for “umbraphiles” — those who travel the world to experience those fleeting minutes of wonderment inside the shadow of the moon — being close to a total eclipse isn’t close enough.
“Partial eclipses are interesting in that, with the proper eye protection (which MUST be used at all times), one can see the moon moving slowly across the face of the sun. But there is no climax, no exhilarating moment of true beauty in the sky above them,” explains Dan McGlaun. “Get thee to the path,” he urges.
McGlaun, of Hendricks County, has seen 12 total eclipses around the world and maintains the Eclipse2017.org website where visitors will find everything they need to know about observing the eclipse in Indiana, or, as he strongly advocates, in the path of totality.
How rare is a total solar eclipse? The last total eclipse in the United States occurred in 1979. The last total eclipse that crossed the entire continent occurred in 1918. Experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens on average only once every 375 years, according to NASA.
Carbondale, Illinois, about 100 miles west of Evansville, will experience the longest total eclipse duration, clocking in at 2 minutes, 43 seconds. At 11:54 a.m. CDT, the moon will begin its pass. The peak of full totality is from 1:20-1:22 p.m.
Hopkinsville, Kentucky, about 80 miles south of Evansville, will have the greatest vantage point: where the sun, the moon and Earth line up the most precise. The peak there begins at 1:24 p.m. CDT.
If you can’t get to the path of the total eclipse Aug. 21, or if the weather doesn’t cooperate, Indiana is right in line for the next total solar eclipse viewable in North America. That path of totality will run diagonally from Mexico through Maine and the Maritimes. The path will cover two-thirds of Indiana running on a center line from Vincennes to Union City. So, hang onto your seat, but don’t hold your breath. That eclipse doesn’t occur until April 8, 2024.