It’s a mighty big fuss for what amounts to a shadow.
The moon butts its way in between the Earth and the sun Aug. 21, casting its shadow across the continental U.S. from sea to sea.
A cross-continental U.S. total eclipse like this hasn’t …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution of $25 or more in Nov. 2017-2018, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access Includes access to all websites
For more information, NASA’s www.eclipse2017.nasa.gov page has links to science and eclipse trivia, an interactive map of the Aug. 21 Great American Eclipse and links to live video streams, smart phone apps and other resources.
The Great American Eclipse runs from about 10:20 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. across the Front Range, the maximum eclipse at about 11:45 a.m. and lasting for two or three minutes. Viewing events are free and open to the public unless noted otherwise.
Anythink Library branches, Thornton
The library’s branches at Huron Street, Wright Farms and York Street will host eclipse viewing parties with eclipse glasses, safe viewing technique discussions and crafts.
Arapahoe Community College, 5900 S. Sante Fe Drive, Littleton
A question-and-answer session with astronomy faculty begins at 11 a.m., along with video streams from other locations on the campus’ west lawn. Viewing stations will include filtered telescopes, pinhole cameras and eclipse glasses.
Community College of Denver, 1111 W. Colfax Ave., Denver
Viewing station will be set up near the Confluence Building with two telescopes and eclipse glasses.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver
The museum will be giving away a limited number of eclipse glasses and selling them for $2.99 each when the free glasses are gone. Eclipse-themed events are scheduled throughout the day, including a NASA live-stream indoors, solar-scope viewings in Boettcher Plaza, family Eclipsercize in the studios, and crafts and story time in the Discovery Zone. Eclipse events are free with general museum admission.
Front Range Community College, Westminster Campus, 3645 112th Ave., Westminster
Viewing stations will be set up in the parking lot in front of the rotunda. The school will have 1,000 solar eclipse glasses that viewers can borrow, several filtered telescopes, pinhole cameras for tracking the eclipse and displays about the science of eclipses.
Regis University, 3333 Regis Blvd., Denver
Individuals will all receive free eclipse glasses for viewing from the campus commons, while supplies last. Physics and astronomy faculty will have filtered telescopes to watch the eclipse and will be on hand to answer questions and lead activities. In case of bad weather, the campus will stream live NASA footage of the eclipse.
Experts agree the only time it’s safe to look at a solar eclipse is during the few minutes of totality, when the moon is completely covering the sun and only the chromosphere and corona are visible.
Since Colorado won’t see a total eclipse on Aug. 21, it won’t be safe to view with the naked eye at all.
“I cannot say it enough — never look directly at the sun,” said Carla Wente, chair of the science department at Front Range Community College’s Westminster campus. “You will ruin your eyeballs.”
The Colorado Optometric Association recommends using specially rated eclipse glasses with its ANSI Z81 or ISO 12312-2 rating stamped or printed on the side. These glasses contain a chromium or aluminum that will screen out harmful light and will allow people to watch the eclipse progress. They are available at most local viewing events.
Homemade eclipse glasses, sunglasses or smoked glass will not work and could damage your eyes.
However, a pinhole camera is easy to make, Wente said. There are numerous how-tos on the internet but the basic design involves using a pinhole and paper to watch.
1. Cut a small rectangle out of a piece of cardboard, an inch or two wide should work.
2. Tape a piece of foil over the rectangle.
3. With a pin, punch a small hole in the foil.
4. Hold the cardboard up in front of the sun, making note of where the point of light from your pinhole shows through. Put a piece of white paper below and focus the pinpoint on the paper. It will be the shape of the sun and you can watch the eclipse progress without risking your sight.
“The foil makes a difference because you get a smoother hole with sharper edges,” Wente said. “But a hole in a piece of paper, shined on your hand or the sidewalk, will work, too.”
And if you don’t have a pinhole camera, even looking at the shadows of leaves from the trees is a way to see the eclipse, Wente said.
“The sun filters through leaves, and it acts like a pinhole camera,” she said. “You have to find the right tree — one that’s not too dense and not too sparse. You can walk under the trees and see this beautiful pattern of crescents. It’s very cool.”
It's a mighty big fuss for what amounts to a shadow.
A cross-continental U.S. total eclipse like this hasn't occurred since 1918. And the rare event comes with a special name: The Great American Eclipse.
"That's what they call it, because everyone in the United States will get to see something, at least a little bit of it," said Damon Olsen, astronomy instructor at Littleon's Arapahoe Community College. "Everyone in the U.S. will see it, plus Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. They'll all see something."
Along the Front Range, the moon begins creeping over the sun at 10:23 a.m., covering more than 90 percent of the sun just before noon.
By 1:23 p.m. the Great American Eclipse should have moved out of Colorado.
Schools, libraries and parks across the Denver Metro area are hosting viewing events, complete with glasses, telescopes and crafts for kids.
At Westminster's campus of Front Range Community College, the school will have multiple filtered telescopes, eclipse glasses and other displays.
"We will have a telescope, solar viewing glasses, pinhole cameras," said Clara Wente, chair of the science department at Front Range Community College's Westminster campus. "We may have astronomical binoculars, which are binoculars with special solar filters."
The path matters
Like most professional sky watchers in Colorado, Wente said she won't be anywhere around here when the eclipse begins. She's headed north into the path of the deepest part of the shadow, total coverage of the sun by the moon.
"Like millions of other people, I'm going to be at the eclipse," Wente said. "Basically, everyone else here is going to Wyoming, so my husband I decided to go Nebraska. Either way works, but we didn't want to get stuck on traffic on I-25."
Solar eclipses come in three varieties: total, annular and partial.
A partial eclipse occurs when any part of the moon covers the sun, and that can happen as often as five times per year.
Annular eclipse happen when the moon moves completely in front of the sun but, because of the moon's elliptical orbit, it is too far from the Earth to completely block the sun. An annular eclipse results in a bright ring of sunlight around the moon.
Total eclipses, like this one, are the rarest, typically occurring somewhere on Earth every 18 months or so.
The Aug. 21 solar eclipse begins about 9:55 a.m. mountain time somewhere over the North Pacific Ocean, northwest of Hawaii and just east of the International Dateline.
It makes landfall on U.S. soil at about 10:04 a.m. Mountain Time just west of Salem, Oregon, reaching totality - total blockage of the sun by the passing moon - at about 11:16 a.m Mountain Time there.
From there, it follows a looping diagonal path southeast across the country's midsection, through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennesee and South Carolina.
Eclipse totality comes closest to Colorado before noon. Casper, Wyoming, should go dark at 11:43 a.m.; Grand Island, Nebraska, at about 11:59 a.m. Mountain Time. The total eclipse will last more than two minutes in each location.
The eclipse finishes with the U.S. and leaves the continent at 12:48 p.m. Mountain Time just north of Charleston, South Carolina. It's completely finished at 12:55 p.m. Mountain Time out over the Atlantic Ocean.
Those in the direct path will see the sun completely covered, all but a wispy ring. That is the sun's chromosphere or atmosphere and seeing that is why eclipses matter to astronomers.
"It's one of the rare times you can actually view the sun's atmosphere," Wente said. "It's one of the advantages of having a total eclipse. It's the very lowest atmosphere, right above what we think of as the surface of the sun. It's colored red but you can't normally see it because the sun is so bright."
It's also the most breathtaking for everyone because a 100 percent total eclipse is as different from anything else as night and day - quite literally, Wente said. Under totality, the sky goes dark and stars will be visible.
A crescent sun
Colorado is out of the path of totality and Wente said sky observers should not expect mid-day darkness here. From the perspective of viewers in Westminster, the moon will cover nearly 93 percent of the sun; in Highland's Ranch it's about 92 percent.
"The sun's wattage, what we actually see, is about 1,300 to 1,400 watts per square meter," she said. "A light bulb is 100 watts. So even 10 percent of the sun's light will be a lot. I'm expecting it, personally, to be like a cloudy day."
There should still be quite a show.
"I think the amazing thing will be just to see the sun as a crescent, to see the moon over on top of the sun," she said.
The eclipse maximum will be over quickly, she said, finished here in minutes.
"Part of the fun is the whole process, the moon moving in over the sun," she said. "We won't get that totality, but will get to follow along, up to that 90-plus percent."
And if you miss it, don't worry. There will be another Great American Eclipse on Aug. 12, 2045 - and this time, Denver will be in the path of the totality.
"It's just like this one, but 200 miles to the south," she said. "It'll come right through the center of Colorado and we only have to wait another 28 years."
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.