5 things you need to know about the Aug. 21 solar eclipse

Regis’ Physics and Astronomy department invites all to a viewing event for the Great American Eclipse from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, on the Northwest Denver Campus’ Boettcher Commons (The Quad). While the eclipse will be viewable across the contiguous United States in varying degrees, the moon will block 92 percent of the sun in Denver.

Free solar eclipse glasses will be handed out, several telescopes will be set up and Regis astronomers will be on hand to answer questions. Fun activities for kids are planned, including making pinhole projectors and solar system bracelets.

In case of cloudy weather, the eclipse will be live streamed in Felix Pomponio Family Science Center’s amphitheater (Room 212).

Parking on campus is free during this event.

Are you up to speed on the eclipse? Read on to check your knowledge or pick up some fun (and helpful) facts, straight from Quyen Hart, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

How long will this solar eclipse take?

People think the eclipse is over quickly. But really, it will unfold over the course of three hours. The best time to view it in Denver is between 11:30 a.m. and noon, which spans the middle of the eclipse. Keep your eyes on the weather. If It’s cloudy, you’ll want to go out beforehand. Even if it’s slightly cloudy, it’ll be OK. With a 92 percent partial solar eclipse, we’ll see the sky only dim a little bit (it won’t get dark).

Do I really need to wear these special eclipse-viewing glasses that I’m hearing about?

The sun is extremely bright. Even with 92 percent of it blocked out, your eyes will focus that sunlight to the back of your eye, and that amount of light can irreparably damage the cells there. It might not be noticeable right away that you’ve damaged your eyes. Safety is always first. If you don’t have glasses, don’t be tempted to look at the sun. Use indirect projection techniques. We will have a pinhole projector activity on campus. We’re going to project the images onto the ground and on dry-erase boards, then kids can doodle around them. It’ll be a lot of fun.

Will temperatures drop? Will our animals freak out?

Even at 92 percent, that’s 8 percent of sunlight still getting through. It’s still going to be bright out. It won’t look like dusk or dawn. Your animals will not freak out. It might look a little dimmer to you – like on a slightly cloudier day. In those areas of the full eclipse, it won’t be dark at midnight, either. It’ll be more like “the sun just set” dark because light gets scattered throughout earth’s atmosphere. They’ll experience a noticeable temperature drop. Animals in the total eclipse areas could respond by thinking it’s nighttime and preparing to go to sleep.

What if I want to go to Wyoming or Nebraska to see the total eclipse?

Unless you are prepared, don’t drive to view the total eclipse at the last minute. Even astronomers who could easily get to the total eclipse are not going because they’re talking about it being the Great American Traffic Jam. It really could be difficult logistically. Procrastinators beware. There are very few available campground spots or hotel rooms, and no amenities in the middle of nowhere. You could end up watching the total eclipse in gridlock traffic when you could be having a really good time here at Regis.

When are the next big eclipses?

The next eclipse in the United States is an annular solar eclipse in New Mexico in 2023. You can see the next total solar eclipse in Texas through Maine in 2024. But if you want to view the very next total solar eclipse, which is next year, you’ll have to travel to South America or Antarctica.

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