Get ready for Eclipse Mania

79% Magnitude Eclipse set for St. Marys, August 21st

By Stewart Grant

If you haven’t heard about the great North American total solar eclipse yet, believe me, you will. For the first time in approximately 100 years (since June 8, 1918), a total solar eclipse will cross the entire continental United States from coast to coast. The eclipse path will start near Salem, Oregon on August 21st and travel east-southeast across the country before hitting the Atlantic coast near Charleston, South Carolina. For as long as two minutes, 41 seconds, places within the eclipse path will experience darkness in the middle of the afternoon as a result of the Moon blocking out the light from the Sun.

Given today’s social media and the rarity of a total solar eclipse, astronomy professor Tyler Hordgren of California’s University of Redlands was quoted, “This will be the most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history”.

I first heard of the eclipse from a friend in Charleston who is planning a big bash for the occasion. Upon reading more, it seems as though this is the norm for literally anywhere along the path of the total eclipse.

For us here in St. Marys, the car ride to witness “totality” is just ten hours away (before accounting for traffic). Just north of Nashville, Tennessee is the closest point to St. Marys where you can experience a 2+ minute total solar eclipse. Just head south down I-75, then veer toward Louisville on I-71, then finish up your drive via the I-65.

Eclipse pathThe problem is, where will you stay when you get to Nashville?  As nice as they are, the Crisp’s can’t accommodate everyone. As of this week, the very cheapest hotel room listed on expedia.com for Nashville on August 20/21 is nearly $1,000 per night, with even these rooms in very short supply.

OK then, maybe Nashville isn’t ideal for eclipse viewing because it’s such an attractive place to visit in general and of course they’d attract a crowd. How about somewhere quieter along the path, like Casper, Wyoming? Nope. There is literally one hotel available for the nightly cost of $1,144 and another motel for $2,000. Everything else…sold out.   

So as I said, people in the United States are geared up for this eclipse. Small towns anywhere along the path are preparing for crowds to enter their communities in numbers never seen before or never to be seen again. Traffic leading anywhere near the eclipse on August 21st will be a nightmare.

With this in mind, I decided to investigate how well we can see the eclipse from right here in St. Marys, Ontario. As it turns out, it’s not too bad, and we don’t need to fight the traffic. Mark your calendars for the afternoon of August 21st, where between 1:07 pm and 3:48 pm, we will witness a partial solar eclipse. At its maximum point at 2:29 pm, 79% of the sun will be blocked out by the Moon.

While it sure would be neat to experience a total solar eclipse, fortunately August 21st won’t be our last chance. Start making your plans for April 8, 2024 when a total eclipse of the Sun can be seen from parts of southern Ontario including Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and as close as St. Thomas and Tillsonburg. It’ll be a beauty.

Tennessee eclipse mapOBLIGATORY SAFETY WARNING:

Never look directly at the Sun, eclipsed or otherwise, without any protective eyewear. The Sun’s UV radiation can burn the retinas in your eyes leading to permanent damage or even blindness. The best way to safely watch a total solar eclipse is to wear protective eclipse glasses or to project an image of the eclipsed Sun using a pinhole projector.

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