WASHINGTON — Happy first day of summer! It
officially started for the D.C. region Wednesday morning at 12:24 a.m. EDT.
Coincidentally, Wednesday also marks 60 days to the
solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017 that will cross the United States from the West Coast to the East Coast — an event that hasn’t happened in 99 years.
In preparation for the solar eclipse, which may be the most watched in history, NASA and other federal agencies participated in
a joint news conference at the Newseum. Representatives from NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration provided valuable information on the eclipse, weather, logistics and safety.
This Tiny Town is the Best Place to Catch the Total Solar Eclipse
Over 200 million people live within one day’s drive to
the “path of totality.” This is the narrow band only 70-miles wide where the dark umbral shadow of the moon will race across the Earth’s surface at almost 3,000 mph at the start of the eclipse in Oregon to 1,500 mph in South Carolina at eclipse end.
I’ll share the science of “Eclipse 2017” in another column.
Cities and national parks — along with the 14 states in the path of totality — have been preparing for the expected large crowds. Hotels and lodging facilities have been booked and sold out two years in advance. NPS and FHWA cautioned that eclipse seekers must plan in advance to make sure they can get to their viewing location: “You just can’t pack up and go on the day of the eclipse.”
Our own Shenandoah National Park will be watching the solar eclipse as part of their 2017 Night Skies Festival,
which takes place Aug. 18-21.
(Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls via Getty Images)
Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls via Getty Images
During the news conference, eye safety in watching the eclipse properly and safely was emphasized and reinforced by multiple multimedia presentations. Other safety aspects were covered as well.
Martin Knopp, associate administrator of the Office of Operations in the FHWA at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, cautioned that motorists must keep their eyes on the road and not watch the eclipse while driving.
Many interstate highways are in the path of totality and there may be cars pulled over on the shoulders with people out of their cars looking at the eclipse. FHWA is an excellent source of information if you are planning on driving to the eclipse.
(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
AP Photo/Tim Ireland
Biggest crowds and weather prospects
When I asked the panel where they expected the greatest concentration of people to watch the eclipse, they speculated that Nashville, Tennessee — which will experience totality — and national parks along the path of totality will have the biggest crowds.
Vanessa Griffin, director of the NOAA’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations in Suitland, Maryland, discussed weather prospects during the eclipse. Because this involves the entire U.S., her best advice was to check “your local weather stations two-three days before the eclipse.” Of course, with the eclipse taking place at the height of summer heat, humidity and clouds can be the order of the day for much of the country.
The good news is that when I asked, “How can we see the eclipse if it is cloudy?” Dwayne Brown, NASA Headquarters Public Affairs, replied, “NASA will provide a nonstop live view of the eclipse from west to east using NASA assets.”
Partial solar eclipse only in the D.C. area
In the D.C. area, you can witness a partial solar eclipse only, since we are not in the path of totality. In D.C., the new moon will start to cross the face of the sun at 1:17 p.m. EDT and obscure 85 percent of the sun at maximum eclipse, which occurs at 2:42 p.m. EDT. The eclipse ends at 4:01 p.m. EDT.
You can get the particulars of the solar eclipse for where you live by going to NASA’s interactive map, which shows the whole U.S., Google-map style, and allows you to pinpoint your location. All of the information about the eclipse at your viewing spot pops up — it’s really nifty.
NASA and NOAA will be doing a lot of science during this total solar eclipse using Earth, air and space-borne assets, which a panel discussed Wednesday.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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