Behind the Telescope – Our Work in Jackson, Wyoming

Behind the Telescope – Our Work in Jackson, Wyoming

Curious about who we are and what we do? Here’s just a few of the awesome things we’re doing at Wyoming Stargazing in Jackson, Wyoming.

Wyoming Stargazing in Jackson, Wyoming

Curious about who we are and what we do? Here's just a few of the awesome things we're doing at Wyoming Stargazing in Jackson, Wyoming.Music:

Posted by Wyoming Stargazing on Friday, July 17, 2020


100 Days Until Totality! 10 Days Left – George Takei’s Reminder About Eye Safety from

Get stoked! We’re only days away from the ultimate Astronomical event of the year! The town of Jackson has been working hard to prepare for the influx of visitors and eclipse watchers. Soon, the hard work and preparation will pay off as we enter into the 2 minutes of totality that we’ve been waiting for. NASA just realized a fun, short video previewing the spectacular events of the upcoming solar eclipse. Take a look and enjoy totality!

From “In less than two weeks, on Monday, August 21, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights – a total solar eclipse. This video, narrated by actor George Takei, provides viewing tips for the public. Watch: #Eclipse2017″

100 Days Until Totality! 13 Days Left – Tips for Visitors from

Teton County’s resident population of approximately 23,000 is expected to swell well beyond even our typical busy tourist season numbers during the impact period. It is best to arrive early, come prepared, and have reasonable expectations, given the situation. Once the eclipse begins, you will forget all about the crowds and any small inconveniences it took for you to experience this wondrous event! Lodging accommodations are limited. Hotels, camping and RV camping are near capacity. Visitors may need to look outside of Jackson and Teton County for accommodations. Be sure to have you accommodations arranged prior to arrival. The mountains of Wyoming are beautiful, but keep local hazards in mind. Important hazards to be aware of:

• Wildfires – Mid-August is prime wildfire season in Teton County, Wy. Do not park vehicles with hot catalytic converters over grasses that can easily catch fire. If you have a campfire, follow these tips to do it safely If you see a suspected wildfire, report it to our wildfire dispatch center at 307-739-3630.

• Wildlife – One of the primary attractions of Teton County is our abundant wildlife, including deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, antelope, black bears, and grizzly bears. Keep your speeds down on our roads, especially at night. Keep a clean campsite. Jackson is in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, wildlife is abundant. Keep your food properly stored at all times to avoid wildlife encounters with bears, ravens, foxes, and other animals. We don’t want to make easy opportunities for wildlife to become accustom to people. Familiarize yourself with the proper food storage requirements for each area you are visiting ( If you are going to hike in Teton County, be sure to carry bear spray and know how to use it.

• Elevation – Jackson, WY is at 6,200 feet, with many hiking routes and mountain passes well above 8,000 feet. Know your limitations, and do not overexert yourself. Be familiar with the signs of altitude sickness Also, be aware that dehydration can set in quickly in our thin, dry air, so drink plenty of fluids even if you aren’t being active.

While Visiting During the Eclipse Impact Days:

• Do not think, “We’ll just pick up what we need when we get there.” Supplies, cash, fuel and restaurant meals may be limited or have long lines due to high demand.

• Think about your personal safety and security:
o Have an effective communication plan with your family members. Cell service may be limited due to the increased volume. Have an out of area friends or family member you can check in with if you get separated. Pick a landmark where you can reunite if you get separated in a crowd.
o Do not leave valuables in your vehicles. Think through your security plan and hot to keep important items secure, i.e., cell phones, telescopes, binoculars, wallets, etc.

• Make sure your vehicle/RV has been serviced and you are all fueled up and ready to go (gas, propane, etc.)
• RV dump stations will be limited and overtaxed in our area. Come empty and leave full.

100 Days Until Totality! 22 Days Left – Solar Scopes

So you’ve snagged a couple tickets to our eclipse events and you’re ready to view the eclipse through our solar telescopes. But you may still be skeptical and worried about your eye safety. We’re encouraging you to read on and put all you fears to rest!

What makes solar telescopes safe, exactly? During the eclipse, our organization will be using two different types of solar filters with our scopes. Built in or on each telescope is a special filter that’s blocking out about 99% of the light that you’d normally see from the sun. For the most common type of solar filter, we will be using a thin, plastic film that keeps its cool in the heat of the sun. Because these films will not heat up significantly, they are used in solar shades as well, and can be safely used throughout the duration of the eclipse. This filter will allow you to see the sun and a yellow-orange disk, and maybe even allow you to see sunspots on the sun’s surface.

The Sun as viewed through an H-Alpha filter

The second type of solar filter is known as a Hydrogen-Alpha filter, or H-Alpha for short. This filter is made to detect a certain wavelength, or rather the hydrogen-alpha wavelength, so that it receives only one specific light band through the telescope. The single H-alpha band causes the sun to appear bright red in our telescope, and can enable the viewer to resolve solar flares, granules, prominences and filaments.

So no worries! These filters in our scopes are designed to let in only a tiny amount of light, so that your eyes are not exposed to any UV radiation. So relax, take a peek into the scope and enjoy a safe and unforgettable eclipse!

100 Days Until Totality! 23 Days Left – Varying Totalities

Have you noticed that some locations get shorter lengths of eclipse totality, while others seem to have up to a whole 40 seconds longer? Whether you’re out on the Northern Coast of Oregon, or in the middle of Illinois, you’re bound to have a spectacular view as long as you’re in the path of totality! If you haven’t made your location of choice just yet, this factoid may help you choose the best case for longest viewing.

Starry Night education software

Interestingly, the total solar eclipse this year will not be the same for everyone in line with totality. Some areas will experience a totality lasting only 2 minutes, where others, such as Carbondale, IL will have theirs lasting for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Though the eclipse is the same, the amount of direct shadow is not. This is due to the curvature of the Earth. As the Sun shines on the backside of the Moon, we see the first signs of shadow touch down at the farthest tangent on the globe during the earlier part of the event. Given about an hour later, the Moon’s shadow will be passing directly across the Earth at it’s shortest point, providing a longer period of direct shadow. The difference in these two points can be a maximum of 4,000 miles!

If you’re still hoping for the longest duration of totality, you’ll be wanting to be present in the middle of the path of totality. Locations in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee will be your best bets.

Sources here and here

100 Days Until Totality! 33 Days Left – MSU’s Live Eclipse Broadcast

Credit: MSU/NASA

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

100 Days Until Totality! 34 Days Left – An Awesome Map for Eclipse Tracking

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.

100 Days Until Totality! 36 Days Left – Weather Contingency Plans for the Eclipse

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.

100 Days Until Totality! 39 Days Left – Locations to View the Eclipse in Jackson

Photo Credit: Josie Reed

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.

100 Days Until Totality! 42 Days Left – Getting High or Staying Low: Altitude Sickness

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.

100 Days Until Totality! 44 Days Left – Wildfire Safety

2016 “Berry Fire” in Grand Teton National Park

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.

100 Days Until Totality! 45 Days Left – Wildlife Safety

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.