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For the first time since 1979, the United States will be able to view a solar eclipse as it crosses the country on Monday, Aug. 21—with Idaho located directly in the eclipse track.
This solar eclipse will begin at 10 a.m. and will last approximately two hours, with the sun being completely covered for about two minutes. It will mainly be seen in south central Idaho, according to Brian Jackson, a professor in the Department of Physics. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks out light from the sun, thus casting a shadow that can be seen from Earth. The next solar eclipse viewable from Idaho won’t take place again for over 150 years.
“Eclipses don’t happen infrequently—about every 18 months we will have a solar eclipse like this, but they’re not usually visible across such a wide swath of densely-populated area,” Jackson said. “Usually they’re in the middle of the ocean, or out in the middle of Siberia or something like that.”
Since the eclipse track passes through south central Idaho there will be many small towns within the path, according to Jackson. These small Idaho towns are beginning to prepare for the large influx of visitors on Aug. 21.
“This is going to be a pretty unique eclipse just from the respect of having a lot of people along the eclipse track,” Jackson said.
In addition to viewing the eclipse, scientists will also be utilizing this event to make observations and pursue many unique science and engineering problems, according to NASA’s website about the eclipse. Such observations will be made through spacecrafts, balloons and from the ground.
As seen on the map of Idaho, the path of totality—which is the path in which you can see the sun completely covered—cuts through towns such as Idaho Falls, Cascade, Stanley, Challis, Weiser and Rexburg. These towns anticipate accommodating thousands of visitors in August.
According to Jackson, the Department of Physics is very involved in spreading awareness about this event. Specifically, the Society of Physics Students has been leading the student effort to organize these events.
“We have (physics) students who have helped with the public outreach campaign. They’ll help us do the presentations, mail out the eclipse shades and help with the public events,” Jackson said.
Eclipse shades are intended to protect your eyes from being damaged by the sun and allow you to view the entire eclipse, according to Jackson.
Throughout the summer, Jackson and physics students will run a wide-reaching public campaign involving site visits across Idaho. A PonyUp campaign has been set up to support these site visits, and they have currently raised about $5,000.
The state has provided some funds to go toward distributing eclipse shades for people to wear during the event. Jackson said they will end up ordering about 13,000 of these shades for distribution across Idaho.
For more information about this solar eclipse, visit NASA’s website. For other resources visit the Department of Physics website.