Aug. 21 could be the “most-watched celestial event in the history of human kind.”
The anticipation is huge for the upcoming total solar eclipse, and locals won’t want to miss the experience, Macon astronomer Philip Groce said.
More than 100 children and adults gathered at the Washington Memorial Library for Groce’s presentation on the eclipse and safe viewing methods Saturday afternoon. A total of 262 pairs of free eclipse glasses were handed out, said Melanie Duncan, head of the library.
“We are so excited about this solar eclipse,” said Macon resident Janet Fluellen, who took 11th-grade daughter Jania to the event. “This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
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Only cities in the “path of totality” will see the moon fully block the sun, but a partial eclipse will be visible in other parts of the country, including Middle Georgia. The closest point of totality from Macon will be near Clayton, Groce said.
“You cannot make up this experience,” he said. “We are so fortunate to be able to witness this event. ... There’s no reason not to see it.”
Conditions have to be just right for a total solar eclipse. It all depends on the distance of the moon, which determines the size of the shadow that’s cast across the Earth. It can range from an inch to 150 miles, and a 70-mile shadow will pass from Oregon to South Carolina this time. It’s rare to have this much exposure, Groce said.
An eclipse of similar magnitude is expected April 8, 2024, but cooperative weather can never be guaranteed.
In our area, 94.5-percent eclipse coverage is expected Aug. 21. It starts at 1:08 p.m., the peak time is at 2:39 p.m., and it will be over by 4:04 p.m. Groce urged people to be watching by 2 p.m., when things will really start to get interesting.
Fluellen said her family may watch the eclipse at their farm in Hartwell. Angela and Jason Lann, of Macon, are thinking of taking their three children to South Carolina or north Georgia. Angela remembers seeing an eclipse as a child, and she wants to give her children that same memorable experience.
While just a glance at the eclipse won’t harm a person’s eyes, starring at it can do permanent damage to the retinas, Groce said. That’s why eclipse glasses are a must, and special filters have to be used on telescopes, cameras and binoculars. Many stores have already sold out of the glasses and filters. If this equipment isn’t available, a do-it-yourself pinhole projector is another safe option.
Don’t bother to try to photograph the eclipse, because all kinds of photos will be available later, Groce said. Instead, capture surrounding things like trees and landscapes. It’s a time when shadows will be especially sharp and create impressive visuals.
“As interesting is it is to watching this eclipse, what’s more interesting is what’s happening around you,” Groce said.
He hopes that schools dismissing students late will make the eclipse a teachable moment. Watching it is a great way to get kids interested in science and astronomy, and it could serve as the catalyst for their future career paths.
“Mr. Groce got the point across that the eclipse is not something to fear, it’s something to celebrate,” Duncan said. “Here at the library, we try to help people find out the facts, amid all the fake news that’s out there. I believe this program helped do that.”