THE ECLIPSE: What will the once-in-a-lifetime event look like locally?

By 
Dwight Harriman
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Montana’s neighbor to the south, Wyoming, has been hogging all the attention about the total solar eclipse on Monday. It seems everybody and his brother, along with his cousins, are heading southward to the path of totality to catch the once-in-a-lifetime event.

But the solar show here in Livingston isn’t going to be too shabby, either. In fact, at 95 percent “obscuration” of the sun, as the scientists like to say, it’s going to be pretty spectacular.

But not complete darkness.

“Even in a total solar eclipse, the (sun’s) corona’s brightness is about a full moon, so it’s not pitch dark,” Aki Takeda, a research scientist at Montana State University-Bozeman physic’s department, said.

Takeda said it will be like twilight in this area.

Still, for a short period in this part of Montana, it will be pretty impressive. 

“You will observe the temperature drop,” Takeda said, adding that birds and animals will behave like they do at dusk and dawn.

“Because it’s not 100 percent, you can’t see the solar corona,” she said.

Exactly when will the eclipse occur right here in Livingston?

Wright Dobbs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings, said that on Monday, the moon will start to cross paths with the sun at 10:18 a.m. Maximum coverage of the sun will take place at 11:36 a.m. Then, the moon will finish crossing the sun at 12:59 p.m.

 

Local/area events

Some local organizations and businesses are getting into the eclipse.

• Albertsons grocery store, in conjunction with Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream, will hold a free ice cream social in the Albertsons parking lot at 9:30 a.m. Monday. The first 150 people to arrive will get free eclipse viewing glasses.

• The Livingston-Park County Public Library, during it’s Story Time period for children, has this week been showing them how to make pinhole viewers to project the sun’s image on a surface. The next scheduled pinhole event is for Friday at 10:30 a.m.

• Local Livingston business Jumping Off Point has made T-shirts celebrating the event that read “Total Eclipse Montana 2017” under the image of an eclipsed sun. Business owner Dan Rice said the shirts were moving quickly.

• The Park County Senior Center is taking an Angel Line bus full of seniors out to the historical Fort Parker site east of Livingston for an eclipse viewing party. The center’s executive director, Nicole Divine, said anyone is welcome to carpool along, but should be aware the center has no extra eclipse glasses. Participants will meet at 10 a.m. at the center.

• Over the hill, Montana State University is having an eclipse viewing event in front of the MSU library. Inside the library, the eclipse will be live-streamed from space onto large TV screens. No eclipse glasses will be available.

Some local residents, of course, are heading south to the path of totality. Among them are Wilsall resident Mike McClure and his wife, Linda. Mike has a particular interest in the solar eclipse — he is a retired aerospace engineer who built his own observatory in Wilsall.

“I’m very excited,” Mike said, calling the eclipse a once-in-a-lifetime event.

He’s lugging along his 5-inch reflector telescope, which is about 25 inches long, with an attachable camera to photograph the momentous event. He hopes to catch eruptive solar prominences on the sun’s edge.

The couple are traveling down the day before the eclipse. Mike said he knows finding accommodations is futile.

“I’m not even going to try and get a room,” he said, adding he and Linda will sleep in the car if they have to.

 

Glasses

Locally, one of the hottest topics, so to speak, is where to find eclipse viewing glasses.

Apart from catching a local event like the one at Albertsons, lots of luck. Most places that did have some, such as the local library — which had 100 on hand — are now out.

“They were gone in 20 minutes,” Library Director Mitch Grady said Wednesday of the facility’s glasses. “This is the first time I saw a line outside the library before we opened.”

Experts warn people not to look at the sun at any time during the approximately two-hour-and-40-minute eclipse without proper viewing glasses.

“It will never be safe to look at the sun without some kind of approved protection for your eyes,” Dobbs said.

If you can’t get glasses, one way mentioned by both Dobbs and Takeda to view the eclipse — without looking at the sun — is to use a pinhole in a piece of paper to project the sun’s inverted image onto another sheet. A quick Google search will provide details.

 

Weather

As always, Mother Nature has the last word on natural events, and in this case, successful viewing of the eclipse locally will depend on no cloud cover.

Right now the National Weather Service predicts sunny skies with a high of 84, so it’s looking good. So keep your fingers crossed and your eyes safe.

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Helpful web sites:

To see an animated version of the eclipse in our area, visit https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse, and type Bozeman, Montana — the nearest listed city to Livingston — in the search box.

NASA: www.nasa.gov