There are less then two weeks left in the Old Bill’s fundraising period. Wyoming Stargazing needs your support in order for us to continue our Save Our Night Skies Campaign to reduce light pollution, to launch our Science Speaker Series, and to offer all the FREE public astronomy programming we facilitate in Jackson Hole. If you’ve attended one of our events please consider making a contribution that will get matched through Old Bill’s. Click here to make a donation now!
Wyoming Stargazing was featured in a NY Times article today about stargazing in the western hemisphere. Astrotourism is a rapidly growing industry and Wyoming Stargazing is honored to be a big part of sharing the Cosmos with the public. Read more…
Montana State University is launching numerous balloons along the path of totality into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at 100,000 feet to view the solar eclipse from the edge of space. The footage will be streamed live on MSU’s website, this is also the first time that a live stream of an eclipse has ever been attempted. This is a great option if you are unable to travel to somewhere within the path of totality or if bad weather ruins your view of the eclipse. MSU is expecting up to 500 million online viewers for the eclipse. All of the video taken of the eclipse can be watched at a later date as well.
To get an idea of what this will be like check out this awesome video from Australia of a total solar eclipse that happened in 2012
On August 21st check this link for the live footage from MSU
There is an interesting website called the 5000 Millennium Canon of Solar Eclipses made by the International Astronomical Union. The site has data for around 12,000 eclipses occurring from the 1999 BCE to 3000 CE. By putting in coordinates you can explore when solar eclipses have happened anywhere in the world in the past or find out if they will happen there in the future. The site makes a detailed map with Google Earth showing you the path of eclipses and can provide details such as the exact time of totality and the duration of totality based on your specific location. You can use this site to see when the next total solar eclipse will pass right over your house!
By clicking the button that says “find your coordinates on a map” you can zoom all the way in to your street and just click where your house is.
You can access the website here.
When the big day comes around, what should you do if the forecast does not look great?
Hopefully the weather here will be perfect for the day of the eclipse but if the weather isn’t looking great you may want to try to drive to another location. Unfortunately Jackson does not have very large roads leaving the town and it can be assumed that trying to get anywhere will be very difficult. It may just be best to remain in Jackson if the forecast does not look too bad. If you do feel the need to drive somewhere else for the eclipse you should probably head towards Eastern Wyoming. While the eclipse will be heading through Idaho, the weather there is frequently cloudy as the air is heavy with water vapor from the Pacific. Heading over the Togwotee Pass will bring you to the east towards Riverton, Wyoming. Riverton is a high elevation desert and is actually on average a little less cloudy than Jackson in August.
Luckily though the Tetons typically protect us from clouds here in Jackson. Clouds typically get “stuck” on the high mountain peaks while the sky below in the valley is typically clear.
For those looking to hike but not wanting to deal with getting in to the national park there are some shorter hikes that are right near town that can lead to good locations to view the eclipse. You can get to the top of Josie’s Ridge to view the eclipse. The hike is steep and short with a lot of area at the top where you can view the eclipse as well as trails that lead off from the top. For those not looking to hike there are many parks and public areas around Jackson and Wilson but keep in mind that these areas will probably be pretty busy so the earlier you get there the better.
Truly the total eclipse will be visible anywhere in the path of totality so long as there are not any trees or buildings in the way. The sun will be about 50 degrees up from level ground in the south east part of the sky here in Jackson. You can use a program such as Stellarium to see exactly where the Sun will be in the sky during totality by setting the location to exactly where you will be.
If you are visiting Jackson for the eclipse you should know that we are at 6,237 feet. If you are from a lower elevation you have a chance of developing altitude sickness here, especially if planning on doing any hiking higher up. Altitude sickness is caused by the brain and lungs not getting oxygen as easily as they are used to due to the thinner atmosphere.
Altitude sickness can make you feel dizzy, cause headaches, fatigue, poor sleep, and nausea. If experiencing these symptoms while hiking, retreat to lower altitude, take ibuprofen and stay hydrated. In very severe cases people may exhibit not being able to walk straight, deep confusion, or blue lips and fingernails. If you do notice these more severe symptoms in yourself or others seek out medical help.
To prevent altitude sickness you should make sure you are properly hydrated, try taking ibuprofen 6 hours before and then during any hikes, avoid alcohol, take things slow, and eat plenty of carbs.
For guests visiting from all over the world it is important to realize that the ecosystem here in Jackson is very different from many other places. Our forests do not receive a lot of moisture and our air is of a very low humidity. These conditions allow for wildfires to spark easily and to burn extremely fast. The eclipse occurs in August which is prime fire season here. Usually forest fires are caused by lightning but with this many visitors who may not know the rules there is a potential for a human caused fire. Natural fires happen every year, but human caused fires are dangerous as it can be in unexpected areas and endanger thousands of acres of forests and people’s lives.
While you are here it is very important that you respect the rules. If there is a ban on fires currently in place it is there to protect you and our ecosystem. Do not throw out cigarette butts outside. If there is no fire ban and camp fires are allowed you must still practice good campfire safety to make sure that it does not ignite a wildfire. To find out all about campfire safety click here to be redirected to Smokey the Bear’s webpage.
For any of you umbraphiles that will be hiking out into the wilderness to view the eclipse it is important to know how to properly behave around wildlife here in Jackson.
While most people know that they have to be careful around bears it is truly important to be cautious around all the animals in this area. Just because an animal is a herbivore does not mean it is safe to approach. Moose, bison, elk, and even mule deer can be aggressive if they feel threatened. Getting too close to these animals (especially when they have young) can cause them to charge you. View the animals from a safe distance and try not to make loud noises and abrupt movements to view them safely.
Bear attacks typically occur when people accidentally walk up on a bear and surprise it. To avoid this it is important to remain alert and to make noise as you hike. Loud talking, singing, or shouting is your best bet. This is especially important in areas with dense foliage or loud rivers which will make it harder for a bear to see you. It is also advised that you should not hike alone. Hiking with other people will naturally help you make more noise and be more noticeable. Also, keep an eye out for scratched trees, scat, and bear foot prints. If you do have a close encounter with a bear it is imperative for you to stay calm, assess the situation, and ready your (unexpired) bear spray. Your bear spray should be kept on a holster on your hip so that it is easy to reach. If a bear does charge, deploy a cloud of the spray between you and the bear when it is about 30 to 60 feet away from you. Make sure to think about the direction that the wind is blowing when firing.
This August, an unprecedented number of people will observe the Total Solar Eclipse. The last time the United States observed totality was on March 7, 1970, and it was only visible from a few states on the East Coast. Millions of people live in the path of totality of this year’s eclipse, and the entire population of the 48 continental states will observe a partial eclipse on August 21st. With so many people wanting to observe the eclipse, how are the towns in the path of totality preparing?
The Town of Jackson has been preparing tirelessly since 2015. The police and EMS are bringing in extra highway patrol officers and emergency services, and are keeping careful track of all of the large events happening in the valley. Through the hard work of the town’s Eclipse Event Coordinator, Jackson’s EMS services, and their teams and employees, the Town of Jackson has created www.tetoneclipse.com, a highly comprehensive website with important information for both locals and visitors. Wyoming Stargazing has been assisting the town in spreading awareness by holding free monthly presentations with Jackson’s EMS coordinator. To find out when and where the next presentation is, visit our Public Astronomy Programs page, and check out our calendar at the bottom.
Preparedness and awareness go hand in hand! The town of Jackson would like all of its residents to be aware of the number of guests joining us for the eclipse, and to welcome them for a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event. Local restaurants should consider stocking more food and beverages for eclipse week. Gas stations should make sure their tanks are full. Visitors and residents alike should have a back stock of food, water, and gasoline. The most important task, though, is to GET EXCITED! Some consider total solar eclipses the most beautiful celestial event visible with the naked eye!
Pinhole cameras are an easy and accessible way to view a solar eclipse. They are especially useful for young children or others who may not be able to look through a special solar telescope or solar eclipse glasses. Pinhole cameras are simple devices that use the properties of light to create a perfectly in focus image with no fancy lenses or mirrors. To create the camera all you will need is 2 pieces of white cardstock paper, aluminum foil, tape, scissors and a pin.
Take one of the pieces of paper and cut a square hole in the middle. It does not matter how large you make the square, but making it a little larger will probably make this project easier to work with. The next step is to tape aluminum foil over the square hole, completely covering it. Here comes the “pinhole” part of the pinhole camera, take the pin and make a tiny hole in the center of the aluminum foil. Congratulations! You now have a simple and easy way to view the eclipse.
Simply stand outside with the Sun behind you and let the light from the Sun fall onto the “camera” (with the foil side facing towards the Sun). The image will be projected below you on the ground. You can place the second piece of paper here to provide a nice screen for the image. Holding the camera farther from the screen will create a bigger image. You should try this out before the eclipse to get some practice and figure out what looks best to you.
Google is undertaking a large citizen science project for the Great American Eclipse of 2017. The goal is to obtain photos from many different locations along the path of totality. The goal is to study the Sun’s corona in great detail. The corona is still not fully understood and most of our observations of it have been done with radio waves. The eclipse of 2017 provides a unique opportunity for many people to obtain data on the corona with visible light waves. Google will use the photographs taken all over the country and combine them together into a movie so we can see how the corona changes over a short amount of time. The data taken for this experiment will be available to the public as well.
Another goal of this project is to study the phenomena caused by valleys on the Moon known as the diamond ring. This will be done so that a more accurate measure of the Suns size can be determined.
To participate in the Megamovie project and learn more about the equipment required to take proper photos click here.