Rare solar eclipse to occur on August 21

By L. Parsons

For the first time in nearly 40 years, people in parts of the United States will be able to witness a complete solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. In Arizona, the eclipse will be 70 percent, but is still anticipated to be quite an event.

“A solar eclipse is a lineup of the sun, the moon and the Earth. The moon, directly between the sun and the Earth, casts a shadow on our planet, creating a once in a lifetime cosmic sight,” explained Niccole Kowalski of Meteor Crater.

“It will be darker than dusk,” amateur astronomer Steve Pauken of Winslow said, “but it’s not going to be total night.”

At its zenith, the sun will be covered by the moon for approximately two minutes. During those two minutes, the eclipse may be viewed with the naked eye. However, in the time leading up to and immediately following the total coverage, it is advised that you do not look directly at the sky, specifically the sun.

“It will burn your retinas out in seconds,” Pauken warned. “Until it becomes total, there is what is called the diamond ring, the last vestige of light before it goes total. That little bit of light is so intense, even if you don’t damage your retinas, you are going to be blind for a little while.”

There are ways to safely witness the eclipse such as pinhole projection. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website, one way is to simply pass sunlight through a small opening (for example, a hole punched in an index card) and project an image of the Sun onto a nearby surface (for example, another card, a wall or the ground).

There are many cultural implications of the eclipse. According to a press release from Ganado High School, which has canceled classes for that day, “In the Navajo tradition it is believed that the sun dies during a solar eclipse, and that it is an intimate event between the Earth, Sun and Moon. People are told to stay inside and keep still during the dark period. No eating, drinking, sleeping, weaving or any other activity. Traditionalists believe that not following this practice could lead to health problems and concerns.”

Meteor Crater will host a viewing party, with the doors opening at 7 a.m. on Aug. 21. The eclipse viewing begins at 9:15 a.m. The maximum eclipse is expected at 10:36 a.m. and will end at 12:03 p.m. Meteor Crater is located off of Interstate 40, exit 233, 18 miles west of Winslow. All are invited, but a limited number of eclipse viewing glasses will be available.