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Great American Eclipse: Granite Staters ready for rare solar display

By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Sunday News

August 20. 2017 1:53AM
A view of a 2008 solar eclipse at the point of totality, when the moon blocks the sun, revealing the normally hidden halo-like corona. During Monday's eclipse, 62 percent of the sun will be blocked in New Hampshire. (The Exploratorium)
The solar eclipse by the numbers
• 2: Number of minutes the moon will completely block the sun's bright face in the path of totality, turning day into night. Bright stars and planets will become visible, birds will fly to their nighttime roosts, and nocturnal insects such as cicadas and crickets will buzz and chirp.

• 11: Number of NASA spacecraft and its partners' spacecraft that will observe the solar eclipse on Monday. (More than 50 NASA-funded high-altitude balloons, numerous ground-based observation sites and citizen scientists will also be collecting images and data that will be made available to the public before, during and after the event.)

• 14: Number of states that will experience a total eclipse. (In New Hampshire, folks will see a partial eclipse, with the peak around 2:45 p.m.)

• 62: Percent of the sun that will be blocked by the moon's shadow at the peak of the eclipse in New Hampshire.

• 1,000: Number of eclipse viewing glasses the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center's gift shop had sold by last week. (They're sold out, but will have some available for visitors to use on Monday.)

• 10,000: Number of miles that the path of totality stretches across Earth's surface during the eclipse.

• 12.2 million: The number of Americans who live in the path of the total eclipse. (With visitors, that number will be much higher!)

• 200 million: How many people live within one day's drive of the path of this total eclipse. Millions more will be able to view a partial eclipse, weather permitting.

SOURCE: NASA.GOV

Monday's solar eclipse may not be as spectacular in New Hampshire as it will be in other locations, but the event still promises a pretty terrific show.

Thousands of Granite Staters are planning to take a break from their work, errands and summer activities Monday to observe what's been dubbed the "Great American Eclipse," which will reach its peak here around 2:45 p.m.

Word of warning: You should never look directly at a solar eclipse, whether with the naked eye, binoculars or a camera. And at this point, eclipse glasses for the big event have become about as rare as ... well, a solar eclipse.

But don't despair: Science centers, public libraries and other venues across New Hampshire are planning eclipse viewing parties and will have eclipse glasses available to share.

You can also make your own pinpoint projector that will allow you to safely view the eclipse as it's reflected on the ground.

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord is expecting a crowd Monday, according to its executive director, Jeanne Gerulskis.

"I was thinking we'd have a few hundred, but judging by the response with our eclipse glasses, we may have a few thousand," she said last week.

The center originally ordered 200 glasses to sell in its gift shop, and then ordered an additional 500 when those sold out quickly. Those were gone fast as well, so the center ordered 300 more and posted that they'd be available first-come, first-served Wednesday morning.

"We had people lined up at 7:15 in the morning - and we didn't open till 10:30," Gerulskis said. "We ran out 20 minutes after we opened."

They've also had some folks stop by with their own glasses to make sure they are safe for viewing the eclipse, after reports of fake glasses being sold online.

The Discovery Center is planning events all day Monday, including special planetarium shows and activities. But it all peaks with outdoor viewing during the eclipse's duration (about 1:30 to 4 p.m.).

Volunteers will circulate in the crowd with glasses to share, and the eclipse also will be projected on the side of the building. "We'll have different cool ways to watch even for people who aren't holding the glasses at that moment," Gerulskis said.

In Manchester, SEE Science Center also is offering eclipse-related activities all day. They'll have eclipse glasses to share for folks as part of their regular admission price, as well as temporary tattoos for visitors to celebrate the cosmic event.

"It's a special opportunity for us to use our talents and who we are to bring something good to our community that they would enjoy," said Susan Howland, SEE's executive director.

Howland said SEE has given out 700 pairs of eclipse glasses in recent weeks, saving enough to give to visitors on Monday. She's not sure how many will turn up, but she said, "We're bracing for a large impact."

"We're a little bit frightened, but we're going to be strong and face it straight on," she quipped.

The lunar shadow will first enter the West Coast at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Totality will begin in Lincoln City, Ore., at 10:15 a.m. PDT and end at 2:48 p.m. EDT in Charleston, S.C. The lunar shadow will leave the East Coast at 4:09 p.m. EDT. (NASA/SVS)

While New Hampshire won't experience a total solar eclipse, folks here will have plenty of time to watch the changes, according to Adele Maurier, design coordinator at SEE. She cautioned that you should never look at an eclipse, even with certified glasses, for more than three minutes at a time.

Even a partial eclipse is pretty awesome, Gerulskis said. "It lets you understand why people a thousand years ago thought that the dragon was eating the sun," she said.

Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness is hosting an eclipse viewing event outdoors from noon to 4 p.m. Participants don't have to pre-register, and the regular trail admission charges apply. There will be solar telescopes and eclipse glasses for visitors to use, and the NASA live-cast will be shown.

Amanda Gillen, marketing manager at the center, said the staff is curious to see how the resident critters - which include foxes, coyotes, bears and owls - react to the eclipse. "Will animals that are crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) become more active during the eclipse? Will nocturnal animals wake up and become active?" she asked. "We'll be watching to see what happens and how the animals continue to react in the days that follow."

The Children's Museum of New Hampshire in Dover is planning eclipse-related activities from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Monday. Eclipse glasses will be available, but there's a limit of 30 people and the event will be first-come, first-served.

Many public libraries are hosting eclipse parties Monday, including those in Brookline, Campton, Derry, East Kingston, Farmington, Gilford, Hooksett, Madbury and Swanzey. They'll have eclipse glasses available, but you'll probably have to share.

In Claremont, storyteller Odds Bodkin will share "tales for an eclipse" at 1 p.m. as part of Fiske Free Library's eclipse watch.

In Merrimack, the parks and recreation department and public library are co-sponsoring an eclipse viewing party at Watson Park Monday afternoon. The first 65 people who sign up in advance (email mricca@merrimacklibrary.org) will receive safety glasses.

Colebrook Public Library will offer eclipse-related activities from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday, but their order for 150 eclipse glasses got cancelled and they couldn't get any more, according to Julie Colby, library director.

Given everything going on in the nation and world right now, educators say the eclipse is a welcome distraction. "It's certainly nice to have something exciting, and it's going to bring kids some joy," said SEE's Howland.

There's something about such events that makes people want to gather together to witness, Gerulskis said. "It's probably part of human nature that, when there is something that takes you out of your day-to-day life and is breathtaking, it's really fun to have a whole group of people to share that experience with, and to cheer when you get to the high point - and then to be somewhat relieved when the sun starts coming back."

"The eclipse is a moment in time, and to be there with friends makes it a much more memorable experience," she said.

NASA features information about Monday's eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov, and so does the American Astronomical Society at eclipse.aas.org.


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