In case you haven't heard, a total eclipse will be traveling across the United States on Monday, Aug. 21, from Oregon to South Carolina. An estimated 20 million people are making the journey to cities and towns in the line of totality, including Salem, Oregon; Casper, Wyoming; St. Joseph, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina.
"If you happen to be lucky enough to be along the path of totality, you will see what I guarantee is the single most spectacular event you can possibly observe in all of nature," said Geoff Chester, an astronomer and press officer with the United States Naval Observatory.
Chester has seen four total eclipses in his life and the one next week will be his fifth. "Each one is a little different and each one gets better," he said.
This map from NASA shows the path of totality:
Here are a few tips he has for eclipse viewers:
- Put down your camera! If you're going to take pictures or video, don't spend more than a minute with your devices because nothing you capture will be as amazing as looking at the real thing. The eclipse will last around two and a half minutes and you don't want to miss it.
- Be aware of what is happening around you. If you're in an area with birds or animals, pay attention to how their behavior changes. Many times birds will go to roost or animals will lie down.
- The path of totality is about 70 miles wide. If you can't make it somewhere in the path of totality you can go about 20 miles north or south of the center line to still have a great experience seeing the eclipse. Don't try to rush to the center line at the last second because there is going to be gridlock and you don't want to miss it.
- Most importantly, during partial phases of the eclipse, do not look at the sun. Wear eclipse glasses, and if you can't find eclipse glasses or a solar lens for your binoculars or camera you can make a pinhole projector out of anything from DIY pinhole projectors, colanders, cheese graters or even a Ritz cracker to project the eclipse on the ground. Chester says it is not natural for people to look at the sun, and if you force it during the eclipse it can damage your eyesight. You can tell if your eclipse glasses are quality because when looking through the lens, you should not be able to see any light unless you are looking at the sun.
- Don't panic. There are some people who will still be uninformed about what is going on. It's an event where people are known to freak out, as it can be an overwhelming and moving experience.
"The spectacle of the total eclipse is really, it's almost indescribable. And it gives you just kind of a gut feeling that there are still forces in nature that are still in charge," Chester said.
Chester described his past eclipse experiences.
"You see a noticeable change in the quality and color of the lighting around you, everything takes on kind of a more reddish cast," he said. "Shadows become very strange; there is one direction that will become very sharp, and another direction that will be fuzzy like you'd see on a normal sunny day. At the instant that totality begins all of the sudden, pow! It gets dark. It is a split second, and all of the sudden, you look up in the sky and there is this black hole in the sky with this pearly glow in it. If the sun is active on that day you may see reddish, what we call prominence, around the sun. And that will last for a couple of minutes, and then just before totality ends, very often a little bit of the sun's visible surface peeks out through a deep valley between mountain peaks on the moon's limb and you see what we call the diamond ring affect. And that then becomes brighter and brighter until, boom - we are back in daylight again."
Bonus Interview with Randy Goldberg on MBTI Types
Have you tried asking people what their astrological signs are? Sometimes, people don’t know. Sometimes they excitedly tell you, happy to discuss horoscopes. Sometimes, they scoff, and look derisive, like, “you believe in that bullshit?”
A good follow up question to that is if they know what their Myers-Brigg type is or MBTI.
MBTI types is based on the typological theory of Carl Jung, and the test was formulated by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. It’s generally a 70 question test that will, eventually, determine whether you are introverted or extroverted; intuitive or sensing; thinking or feeling; judging or perceiving. It’s become "super popular" among “business types” recently- execs who want a quick and easy way to put employees into boxes. MBTI is often used in hiring methods.
When speaking to professional astrologer Randy Goldberg, I was surprised to learn he had much of the same opinions. He spoke about astrology’s frankly awful reputation, and was quick to say that astrology wasn’t fact at all, but rather a discussion and a way to look deeper into personality traits.
He did concede that the MBTI had more grounding in scientific rationale, but didn’t take it very seriously. “Myers-Briggs is watered down...I don’t find it half as interesting as astronomy.” He has a good point.
One of the things he emphasized throughout our discussion was the idea that astronomy wasn’t some one and done thing, like Myers-Briggs. It was a story, or a journey. To put it in his own words, it’s a “mythic-poetic language.”
A Pennsylvania school district canceled outdoor recess during the solar eclipse
Here are the two best ways to view the solar eclipse
From the Founding Fathers to today: A look at nine eclipses over the past three centuries
This year's solar eclipse could cause interstate gridlock. Here's how to beat the traffic