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Pahrump region plans for solar eclipse

A rare celestial event will occur on Monday, Aug. 21.

The aptly termed “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” is expected to darken skies from the Pacific coast to South Carolina.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Caleb Steele said Pahrump residents can expect the eclipse to begin at 9:09 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time, with totality occurring at 10:25 a.m.

The eclipse is expected last roughly 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

All told, the entire event will conclude by 11:43 a.m.

What can one expect to see ?

Meteorologist Kevin Janison from KSNV-TV News 3 in Las Vegas said though Southern Nevada is not in the totality zone, residents can still view a large portion of the rare event.

“We will see about 70-to-75 percent of the totality,” he said. “You won’t be able to really tell the difference unless you look at it safely. Because the sun is so bright, that even only having a quarter if it shine through, you won’t really see any difference as far as the daylight is concerned.”

Blinded by the light

On the issue of safety, Janison stressed residents need to exercise extreme caution while viewing the eclipse.

A check around town revealed area retailers have sold out of solar eclipse safety glasses.

“The best and safest method to view the eclipse is to use the solar eclipse glasses,” he suggested. “If you have access to welding type glasses you can also use them to safely view it. Even though the brightness of the sun will be the same, if you look at the sun with your naked eye, the power won’t feel the same, but the intensity and the damage you could cause to your eyes will be the same.

“Because the power of the sun’s rays may not feel as strong as they normally do, they will be just as dangerous as ever,” Janison said. “As a result, people might look at the sun for three minutes and that might be the last thing they will ever see. I know the College of Southern Nevada Planetarium at the Cheyenne campus purchased about 5,000 solar eclipse glasses to sell for only a few dollars each.”

Pinhole projector

There is also another safe method to view the eclipse without looking skyward, according to space.com, a space, science and astronomy website.

The method is simple and requires just two pieces of plain white paper or even paper plates.

It’s as simple as making a small hole in on the top sheet in order to view the eclipse on the other bottom sheet or paper plate by letting the sun shine through the hole.

The image of the eclipse will appear on the bottom sheet or paper plate.

Weird scenes from above

Janison also spoke about various effects that occur during and after totality.

Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring effect will show prominently during the eclipse, as the rugged lunar topography allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some places, and not in others, while the diamond ring effect is seen when only one bead is left, which appears as a shining diamond set surrounding the lunar silhouette.

“As far as Bailey’s Beads and the Diamond Ring, you will be able to view that if you’re in a locale where there is totality,” he said. “You will witness what appears to be mass material ejecting around the sun’s edges. From a place like we are in Southern Nevada, you will see a crescent sun along the bottom part of the sun, but you won’t be able to see anything too crazy like Baily’s Beads or the Diamond Ring, because we are not in the path of totality.”

Several hours’ drive to totality

Those who wish to witness the eclipse in totality, Janison suggested driving due north.

“We are fairly close, so if someone wants to drive roughly eight hours north they will be able to see it,” he said. “The path starts in west-central Oregon where it goes through Idaho and on to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It will then arc down toward Nebraska, Kansas City, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee where it will exit in Charleston, South Carolina. The whole process will be a little over two hours, from the first contact. The time of totality will be about two and a half minutes.”

Odd reactions

Aside from human beings’ curious reactions to the eclipse, Janison said both fauna and flora in the totality zone also have respective curious reactions.

“If you’re in the totality zone, once the full eclipse occurs, it will look like nighttime,” he said. “Plants that open up during the day will actually close up because they think it is nightfall. Animals will also be very confused. Another thing that people don’t often think about is that the temperature can drop about 20 degrees.”

A different type of eclipse

Though Janison said he’s never witnessed a total solar eclipse, he spoke of another celestial phenomenon which occurred several years back.

“If you recall about five years ago, we had that annular eclipse that went through Southern Nevada,” he recalled. “In fact, we were up in Panaca, Nevada where we ran into several Pahrump residents at the state park just outside of Panaca, which was ground zero. The difference with an (annular) eclipse was that the moon was farther away from the earth, so it didn’t completely block out the sun. As a result, we had what is known as the ‘Ring of Fire’ going around the moon. The sun was somewhere around 90-to-95 percent eclipsed, but it was still pretty bright out. It gives you an idea of how powerful the sun really is.”

Enjoy the moment

Additionally, Janison offered a bit of advice for those traveling to witness the eclipse in totality.

“My advice would be to leave the cell phone in their pocket and just take in the experience, for the entire two and a half minutes,” he said.

“I can’t speak from experience because I have never witnessed a total eclipse, but I know that there are thousands and thousands of people who are ‘Eclipse Chasers’ and they never get tired of them. They feel it was well worth the experience. I know there will be plenty of pictures around that people can snag, but I would suggest just to enjoy it for the two and a half minutes and go from there.”

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes

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