If you are looking for Nathan Miller on Monday, Aug. 21, he’ll be in rural Nebraska.
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire physics and astronomy professor will be there studying a total solar eclipse, which will make its way through the U.S. “It appears from Oregon to South Carolina,” he said.
NASA said a total eclipse happens where you live once in 375 years. So Miller thought going to Nebraska to see a total eclipse was a good idea.
“It’s going to be strange in some of the small towns of Nebraska and Missouri,” he said of the total darkness, which will last 2 ½ minutes at the eclipse’s peak. During that time, Venus and bright stars will be visible, and temperatures will fall.
In the Chippewa Valley, there will be a partial eclipse, where the movement of the moon blocks most of the sun.
“It should be a little over 80 percent blocked,” Miller said of the sun.
Miller explained that the sun is about 400 times larger than the Earth’s moon, and about 400 times further away. But in the sky, they appear to be the same size.
For a time, day will turn into night.
The eclipse will start a little before noon Central time and will be at its peak at 1:10 p.m., Miller said.
“There hasn’t been a good one in the U.S. in a couple of decades,” Miller said.
An eclipse rolled through the Twin Cities in 1954. CNN said the last time a total solar eclipse was seen in the U.S. was Feb. 26, 1979.
It used to be scientists were able to glean a lot of information from an eclipse, as it was the only way to see the outer edge of the sun called the Corona. Information from one eclipse early last century was used to prove Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Miller said.
Today, there are other methods scientists can use to track the corona. “Now I would say (eclipses) are less important. It is still a somewhat unique view of the corona.”
Besides, for sheer spectacle, nothing much matches a total solar eclipse.
However, one thing remains true for any eclipse, full or partial: Never look directly at the sun with the naked eye or with smoked glass or even prescription sunglasses.
“Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device,” said the American Astronomical Society.
Miller said people looking directly at the eclipse have to be worried about ultraviolet and infrared rays. “It is so intense that it can actually burn your retina,” he said of the Sun.
One solution is to make a pinhole camera. Instructions are easily available online. Use it with your back to the sun.
“The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun is through special-purpose solar filters...Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, every very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun,” the astronomical society said.
Miller will have the proper equipment to view the eclipse. He’s cautioning people making the trip to Nebraska or Missouri to watch a total eclipse to be ready for spotty cell phone coverage, and to be self-sufficient that day.
He’s hoping for no rain to spoil what should be a spectacular show by nature.
“They are rare, beautiful and special,” he said of eclipses.