Austin to experience 90% eclipse of the sun; Possible storm threatens to dampen viewing

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, August 19, 2017

A total solar eclipse will occur on Monday, and although Minnesota will not be in the path of totality, that is 100 percent of the sun being obscured by the moon, it will still get dark.

“Most of Minnesota will see between 75 to
90 percent of the sun become blocked by the moon,” said Riverland Community College Astronomy Instructor Kenny Tapp.

According to Tapp, while solar eclipses are generally observable from Earth every 18 months, most of these occur over the oceans. The last time a solar eclipse was visible in the lower 48 states was 1979, when one was viewable in the Pacific Northwest. The last time the path of a solar eclipse ran across the contiguous United States was in 1918, when it traveled from Washington to Florida.

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“Everyone in the contiguous U.S. will be able to see this eclipse,” Tapp said. “Only observers in the path of totality — that is, approximately 70 miles in width, spanning from coast to coast — get to see 100 percent of the sun obscured by the moon. A large swath across the U.S. and millions of people will get to see it 90 percent obscured.” 

Tapp said 86.78 percent of the sun will be obscured by the moon in the Austin-Rochester area. The eclipse will start at 11:44 a.m. and hit its maximum obscurity at 1:08 p.m.

Those in the path of totality will see something not visible to the naked eye.

“People in the path of totality will get to observe the solar corona, which is the outer atmosphere of the sun,” Tapp said. “It is a mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields that appear as lines flowing outward from the sun. This constant flow of charged particles is what creates the solar wind.  The solar wind is responsible for the auroras that are visible at the poles of Earth and other planets with magnetic fields.”

Tapp said NASA will collect data from ground, jet, balloon and space-based telescopes. Information gathered will help us understand the dynamics of the sun’s atmosphere and the impacts of solar radiation on Earth.

The public can contribute by reporting changes of atmospheric conditions from their observation location.

“The solar corona has the ability to affect telecommunications and electronics on earth, so the more that we can learn about the sun’s outer atmosphere, the better,” Tapp said.

The next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the U.S. will happen in seven years and travel along a path from Dallas, Texas, to Indianapolis, Indiana.

“[The 2017 solar eclipse] will be an amazing experience for all ages and generations,” Tapp said.

Safety tips for watching the eclipse

Tapp recommends the following tips when watching the solar eclipse:

• The human eye should never look directly at the sun without special protection. Standard sunglasses are not adequate and are never safe to use when looking at the sun.

• Special solar glasses can be used for safely viewing the sun during the eclipse. If you buy paper or plastic solar glasses, look for the ISO logo on the product to indicate that the product has been certified. A list of certified manufacturers can be found at the NASA website.

• Welder’s glass No. 14 can also be used to directly view the sun. This glass is the greatest shade of all welders’ glass and any less shade number is not adequate enough to protect your vision.

• If a person cannot find proper glasses, then the eclipse can be viewed indirectly. NASA’s website has instructions to make safe eclipse viewers using cereal boxes. Since the eclipse occurs with the Sun is high above the horizon, look for shadows casted by tree leaves on a sidewalk or side of building; the eclipse will be visible in those shadows.

• It is important to note that only a few seconds of viewing the sun without protection can result in permanent vision damage or loss. It is not worth it!

More information

For more information on the solar eclipse, Tapp recommends the following websites:

• The public website from NASA exclusively about the eclipse:

• The public website from the National Weather Service about the eclipse:

• An interactive map from NASA. Users can click anywhere on the map to drop a red pin and retrieve information regarding the timing from start-to maximum-to end of eclipse and the percentage of obscuration. This map can be found from the main NASA eclipse website:

• A static map from NASA showing the path, percentage of obscuration, and timing of the eclipse: