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Ideas for your chance to see solar eclipse in western USA next August (21st)

  • 04-10-2016 6:19pm
    Registered Users Posts: 13,929 ✭✭✭✭

    So, there will be a total eclipse of the Sun with the path of totality running across the United States on 21st of August (a Monday) of 2017, the event starting out around 10:15 a.m. local time on the Oregon coast and then at slightly later times (adding time zone changes too) so around 11:45 local time in southern Wyoming and after noon in the plains states. It runs out to sea in South Carolina mid-afternoon, I am recommending anyone who has an interest in seeing this event to plan a western option where you'll get a better chance statistically of seeing it, and also the added bonus of better scenery as you'll no doubt want to spend a few days at a minimum looking around.

    The best options would seem to be flights to Denver, Las Vegas, Seattle or Vancouver or Calgary in Canada (other well-positioned cities such as Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City don't have as many direct flights to Ireland but of course you can connect to them). My overall plan suggestion is to fly to any of these places about a week to ten days before the eclipse and fly out one or two days after (after calculating the driving time on the day of the eclipse if your plan would be to get there late that night and stay over for a morning flight, that's the closest I would want to cut that part, probably better to fly back on 23rd).

    You would then need to have a car rental secured and this would probably make the U.S. airports the better choice although you can probably rent in Vancouver or Calgary and drive across the border. I would avoid that hassle and start from Denver, Seattle or Las Vegas. Your choice would depend partly on what you wanted to see in the days before (or after if you choose that option) the eclipse.

    I am of course going to be down there but for me it's a day's drive to the totality zone. However, we will likely be on the road for the week before the eclipse (most likely around Utah) and will be catching the spectacle on our return leg.

    I expect motels to be fully booked soon in some of the towns along the path of totality such as Salem and Corvallis-Albany OR, Madras OR, Baker City OR and further east into Idaho but not sure yet about the situation around Boise Idaho which is slightly outside the path and has a lot of motels, that might be a good bet (Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, to the town of Ontario, Oregon) as these places are all on the I-84 freeway and that would provide a rapid repositioning route east or west on the morning of the eclipse if it was to be necessary to go more than the 20-30 miles north into the eclipse path to get a good view. In our case we have a camping option with our vehicle and we tend to stay in campgrounds most nights on our holidays and motels once or twice to get the better washrooms and wi-fi.

    So the point of the thread is to say, plan now if you think you might enjoy the combined experience of wonderful scenery and the spectacle of a solar eclipse, it may be many years before you'll get an easier chance than this one. You can research the costs but I am guessing somewhere between two and three thousand Euros for two people travelling together. Maybe with this thread, two singles can join forces. Most U.S. motels have the same rates for one or two people in a room and many have two-bed options when you book. So if you're not a couple, it's still quite easy and if people think you're gay (and you're not) then they will think you're cool (also being Irish will help with that).

    If I am meandering the wrong way here, just for the record, I am not gay and also I am not cool. At least, nobody has said that I am since maybe 1975.

    Now, if anyone wanted to tag along on the Utah scenery part of this or meet up at eclipse time, I would suggest planning all that by private messages or e-mails and not on this thread. I don't want to discuss details of where I will be and not be, and you shouldn't either. The thread can be used for more general questions. If you did co-ordinate with me, you would be driving your own vehicle and making your own accommodation plans but I could give you some idea of where to do that to keep pace (a leisurely pace as we plan to visit several parks and back road scenery places -- we might plan it so you see things we saw before and won't be visiting while we see less interesting things nearby). If the co-ordination is just for eclipse day, then we can handle that by phone and e-mail closer to the time if we know you are likely to be in the same general area.

    You can google the exact details on timing and path, but for planning you don't really need to know much more than where to fly, what vehicle to rent and then where you want to go, ending up somewhere between Boise and Baker City on the I-84, which is where the eclipse path will be (both those places are near the edge of totality, the best spot will be near the Snake River in eastern Oregon).

    So, any general questions or ideas, let me know. I think you would find this to be a "trip of a lifetime" sort of a thing if you like western scenery and I can say from past experience (March, 1970) that a total eclipse of the Sun is a memorable event that will be awe-inspiring (as long as we can see it, of course, otherwise it's two minutes of darkness at an odd time of day as I found with my second attempt in May 1984 that failed to find a hole in a large cloudy zone across Virginia once again). Otherwise I have only seen various partial eclipses, wasn't mobile enough to catch some of the other ones.

    Utah scenery is something hard to imagine or describe, I would suggest you go on google earth and look around at the various national parks and some of the scenic routes around Moab. Disclaimer, nothing Mormon lurking in my background, no pamphlets will be forced upon you (by me).

    Is it expensive? Mostly the flight, car rentals can be quite affordable and petrol (gas) is about half the price you're used to paying. Distances are large but highways have 80 mph limits in Utah and some parts of Idaho. You would probably fill up four or five times on a trip like this, maybe 150-200 euros. Motels are usually about 50-60 euros a night, camping can be almost free if you know where. That leaves food and medical insurance that you might want to buy for the time that you'll be out of Ireland. Probably about 200 euros at a maximum would cover that, so it's mainly a question of booking flights before they fill up or get too expensive. Anyone who flies to Vancouver can probably count on a bit of assistance from me if for example you wanted to get across the border to rent your car. If you fly to Calgary I won't be anywhere near there at the right times.


  • Registered Users Posts: 33,665 ✭✭✭✭RobertKK

    Getting close now. How many here are going?
    I am having a two week adventure in the wild west, visiting 6 national parks, some on an escorted tour, some on a camping adventure and another on my own.
    Will see the eclipse in either Wyoming or Idaho.
    Just hope the weather co-operates so the journeys won't be too long.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,536 ✭✭✭Micky 32

    Saw the one in France 1999, definately something to make an effort to see!

  • Registered Users Posts: 20,049 ✭✭✭✭Rikand

    Myself and the wife were planning a trip to Florida to see it a couple of years ago.

    But instead we've decided to have another kid

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,929 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    Heading south in a few days for a week of camping in various parts of the western US and ending up in the eclipse zone, target to be finalized on Sunday 20th when we should be having lunch somewhere near Salt Lake City. From there, could be heading for (remote campsite in) Wyoming, Idaho or eastern Oregon.

    The GFS model has been showing fairly optimistic solutions especially for Idaho over the past few runs, not as consistent in western Oregon (which we plan to avoid anyway, millions will be flocking in on just a few main roads). I have been scouting the back roads for campsites although I half expect to be up all night checking the guidance at some internet-friendly spot and maybe catching up on my sleep Monday afternoon when the event is over.

    Will try to get some decent pictures although I am not very optimistic that these will be very high quality, will be going with just basic cameras, and I expect to be pretty busy looking at the brief spectacle (2 min 30 sec). The timing ranges from 10:20 a.m. Pacific daylight time in central Oregon to 11:45 a.m. Mountain daylight time in central Wyoming. Those are only 25 minutes apart so it gives you an idea how fast the shadow is moving.

    The GFS guidance is not very optimistic for eclipse zones east of Nebraska but that's not my problem (nor is it very surprising given how this summer has been going so far).

  • Registered Users Posts: 33,665 ✭✭✭✭RobertKK

    Beautiful sunny morning here in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming, 2 hours before the start of the solar eclipse.

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  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 11,392 Mod ✭✭✭✭Meteorite58

    RobertKK wrote: »
    Beautiful sunny morning here in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming, 2 hours before the start of the solar eclipse.

    Got any Pics RobertKK ?

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 11,392 Mod ✭✭✭✭Meteorite58

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,929 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    Wow, that was something.

    First of all, in the week that we were camping in the outback of NV and UT, skies were extraordinarily clear every night and we saw at least one straggling Perseid each night that we tried to find one. My late night excursions to the loo provided a chance to watch the ever-diminishing moon approach incredibly bright Venus. A motel stay and some cloud overnight prevented one last look on Sunday morning.

    At our campsite on eclipse morning, Venus was casting a few shadows of its own without the moon overwhelming its efforts. Here's the eclipse story ...

    The models kept giving me a peaceful, easy feeling for Oregon-Idaho from about two weeks back, and by the weekend it was pretty obvious that Oregon would be cloud-free. So we moved up from our week's tour of NV-UT to the hills south of Baker City, OR on Sunday night and had an astounding view. We chose to go down into Baker City, sacrificing 30 seconds of totality for various other gains, but in reality I think 2 min or 2 min 30 sec would be about the same experience. This is my second time in the total zone with visibility and then there was one cloud-out (so 2-1 for those keeping score at home).

    Quite the meteorological day -- at 0400, with Venus so bright it was casting shadows in the forestry clearing, temperature felt like about 35 F (2 C). By 0800h in Baker City it was maybe 65 F (18 C), then by 0930 about 80 F (27 C) (all under clear skies with the exception of one large contrail). By 1000 (Pacific Daylight Time, or 17z) it was falling back from 80 F and by 1015 it was maybe 70 F (21 C) and getting a little less bright by the minute. It then looked like a nice day in January (in terms of ambient sunlight). By 1020 it was 65 F (18 C) again. I discovered a way to cheat without "eclipse glasses" and saw the nearly covered Sun by my own eyesight -- this was accomplished by slowly backing out of the shadow of a nearby building until all but the sunlit portion of the disk was visible -- the corona was already discernible against the still-bright sky ... and then the daylight just went out so fast that a crowd of several thousand people changed from awed silence to various shouts of amazement. Then the diamond ring effect flashed on and it was late twilight dark. Venus was now visible again almost directly overhead. I tried to spot Mars closer to the Sun-moon and failed.

    During the two minutes of darkness, the corona was quite delicate compared to the 1970 eclipse that I saw (a higher solar count then). I would describe it as two equal portions on the solar equatorial plane and a third one pointing upwards (so at about a 45 degree angle to that plane which at 1022 PDT was oriented "NE-SW" against the eclipsed Sun high in the southeastern sky. At mid-eclipse I spotted a red prominence near that offset portion. The crowd at this point was hooting and hollering encouragement (I assume 90-95% had never seen this before). It was chilly now, maybe 58 F (14 C). Then the second diamond ring appeared and the light came back on as abruptly as it had vanished earlier. At this point there was a round of applause mixed with the odd "too soon" commentary.

    I think the temperature minimum came about 1-2 minutes after totality ended (my estimate 13 C or 55 F) then the temperature began to soar back towards its interrupted progression to the ultimate high of about 35 C (95 F). An interesting visual phenomenon was that all the tree shadows on the sidewalk moments after the total eclipse had images of the 99% eclipsed sun embedded. I did not spot any ground interference patterns as I had in 1970 at Virginia Beach, and I did notice bird activity consistent with evening. Dogs were going nuts at various times but then big crowds of people can set dogs off as much as strange changes in the light.

    Driving home on Monday evening we had another very bright fireball just after sunset in central WA state.

    Will try to attach a few photos to next post.

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,929 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    Some photos of the eclipse, not including the main event, as mine are not of very high quality. In any case, I am sure you have seen some, the ones that I have seen from eastern states look similar except for the rotated appearance of the corona (due to relative time of day advancing 2-3 hours).

    First photo shows the darkness approaching from the west, over hills 20 miles west of Baker City Oregon.

    Second photo shows a portion of the crowd awaiting the spectacle.

    Third photo shows the dim sunlight about two minutes before eclipse.

    Final photo shows strange shadows on the pavement cast by 99% covered Sun about a minute after totality ended.

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,929 ✭✭✭✭M.T. Cranium

    In any case, most photos of the total phase appear more black and white than what you sense in real time. To my very subjective eye, the first ten seconds look like a lightburst exploding on one side of a rapidly emerging black star in the sky, which is a very deep magenta shade at that point. The diamond ring effect then sparkles for a few seconds and you settle into becoming aware of the black star being surrounded by a slightly irregular bright ring with occasional flickers of orange-red visible. The sky to your now-acclimatized eyesight is a very dim shade of daylight blue similar to what you might see an hour before or after sunset. Portions of the corona stream away from the equatorial plane of the Sun which for my view was tilted diagonally, so one set of thin filaments pointing upper right and one pointing lower left. A third set pointed almost straight up (towards Venus overhead). These had the apperance of white ghostly whiskers on a black cat.

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