It’s been almost a century since a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire lower half of the United States. For those of us living in West Texas, we’ll be lucky to witness the August 21st eclipse... but we won’t hit the jackpot. Only part of the natural phenomenon will be visible from this region, that’s because the Abilene area is nowhere near the path of totality. But what exactly is the path of totality?
“If you can imagine looking from space, the shadow of the moon cast a spot on the Earth,” said McMurry University Physics and Astronomy Professor Dr. Wayne Keith. “It’s a very small spot, about 70 miles across, it basically draws a line across the Earth and if you’re in that path when that shadow falls on you, that’s when you see a total eclipse.”
This time, that path runs across the middle of the United States and while West Texas won’t experience the total solar eclipse, it’s still a special occasion. Just be sure to pick up some eclipse glasses before you look at the sun. And another thing, go near some trees.
“You should be able to see all those little spots that are normally little circles on the ground, will be little crescents,” Keith said. “It’s really bizarre, I remember the first time that I saw it as a kid, I didn’t know what was going on.”
The leaves on trees basically act as a natural pinhole camera, Keith is looking forward to seeing that again. He’s actually taking two telescopes to Nashville to see a solar eclipse in it’s full glory for the first time in his life.
“This is a big deal because it’s the first one that’s been easy to get to for my entire career,” Keith said.
Two minutes of darkness will allow him to look closely at the sun’s corona, it’s outer atmosphere. His observations will be uploaded to a NASA app that makes citizen science data available to the public. And he’s already making plans for viewing the total solar eclipse of 2024, which will cross over Texas.