Are you ready for the solar eclipse? It’s coming Aug. 21!

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By Elston Hill

On Aug. 21, a full eclipse will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. I experienced a full eclipse in 1970 and it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life.

Starting two years ago, I tried to find lodging in the path of the full eclipse for this event. My preferred location was Madras, Oregon as there is less potential for clouds on the eastern side of the Cascades. But all the lodging in the area was booked. I did manage to get a motel in Bend and also some friends in Bend, OR offered us the opportunity to stay in their place. The problem is that the full eclipse would be 30 miles north of Bend. There is only a two lane highway, and already it is confirmed that tens of thousands of people if not hundreds of thousands will try to converge on that rural location from all over the globe using the two lane highway that runs east of the Cascades. The state of Oregon anticipates that there will be five hours of gridlock on I-5 before, during, and after the eclipse in western Oregon. (The full eclipse will cross Salem, OR.) It will probably be comparable to Woodstock east of the Cascades in Oregon. One camp site in Madras (which still has openings and you can Google) has space for 30,000 tents! With that many people, the potential for wild fires will be great. Indeed, while there are less clouds in eastern Oregon, smoke from fires could ruin the event.

I persisted and a year ago finally found a low end motel on the eastern border of Oregon which is in the path of totality. I continue to check and our reservation is confirmed. (Some motels cancelled people’s reservations when they found out about the eclipse and offered the rooms at several times the regular rate.)

In the Pacific Northwest, there will be an eclipse that is 95 to 97% of totality. There is still nothing like a full eclipse, but if you do not have arrangements to be in the path of the eclipse you should still prepare for this event. To look at the sun, you must have eclipse glasses. They are cheap, somewhere between $5 and $15 for five paper glasses. NASA has rated four brands as being safe to look at the eclipse: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. They are so dark that you can not see anything through them unless you look directly at the sun and they filter out the bad stuff that will blind you. I suggest you go to Amazon immediately and order a pair as at a partial eclipse will be visible from all 48 states. Even with these glasses, do not look at the sun for more than three minutes at a time. Remember, it is only safe to look with these glasses. Every eclipse there are people who are blinded or have diminished eye sight after the eclipse.

Trying to get a quality picture of the eclipse is futile for most people including me. Nevertheless, I have ordered a special filter for my camera. This lens reduces the light from the sun to 1/10,000. Without this filter, the sensor on the camera would burn up.  I do NOT look through the viewfinder even with this filter—it is NOT safe to use the viewfinder under any circumstances. Instead, I switch the camera so that the sun shows up on the screen on the back of the camera. This afternoon was my first try. Hopefully I can improve my technique between now and August 21. Incidentally, there is a sun spot on the left side in this photo.

In summary. Go to Amazon. Order one of the four brands of glasses approved by NASA to look directly at the sun. Do NOT look directly at the sun. Do not try to take pictures if you do not want to ruin your camera unless you are under a full eclipse. (Good pictures will be on the web immediately after the event.)  And above all do NOT look through the viewfinder of your camera if you are still old fashioned enough to have a camera with a viewfinder.

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2 Responses to “Are you ready for the solar eclipse? It’s coming Aug. 21!”
  1. Liljo says:

    I booked a room in Umatilla back in January. I think I will call them and double check my reservation!

  2. Lee Moyer says:

    Thanks Elston for the great info. I assume the term “magnitude” on the map means the same as “totality” in your description.

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