UNO to host solar eclipse viewing

Photo by The Gateway

Danielle Meadows

When Mavericks return to campus for the first day of the fall semester, there will be more to look forward to than starting new classes.

The first total eclipse of the sun in more than 60 years passes over Nebraska on Aug. 21, spanning the entire continent and creating a celestial phenomenon that won’t be repeated for decades to come.

From approximately 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the earth will pass through the moon’s shadow and result in various eclipse results depending on where you live. Omaha will experience 98 percent of totality, meaning that while the sun will not entirely be covered, it will still hide the sun’s rays significantly. This will create a strange late-evening experience in the middle of the day — around 1 p.m. — as the moon casts its maximum shadow.

Due to the moon obscuring 98 percent of the sun in Omaha, a “diamond ring” effect will occur, according to eclipse aficionado and UNO mail services manager Mike Burton. Those in Omaha will see a darkened image of the moon with a very bright cap on top, said to mimic a diamond ring.

Burton is so excited by this once-in-a-lifetime event that he’s planned an extensive camping trip in order to see the eclipse more clearly. Nebraska cities that often aren’t tourist destinations, like Grand Island, North Platte and Beatrice, will be flooded with people trying to catch a glimpse of history as they experience 100 percent totality. Cities located in this special total eclipse band could experience temperature drops and darkness so intense that bright stars will come out.

Burton’s goal: to be right in the middle of the Platte River when it happens.

“It’s a lifetime event. I’m 62, so realistically I might not see the next one — at least I won’t travel to it. This one is going right through the center of Nebraska. I have to go out there and see it,” Burton said.

However, Burton stresses that preparation and safety are of utmost importance when admiring the eclipse, and there’s no reason not to be prepared. Special solar glasses are necessary for viewing, with some on sale for a dollar at the Durham Science Center.

At UNO, the department of physics is preparing for this unique event by planning multiple opportunities for viewing the eclipse. Any interested students, faculty or staff members are welcome to attend.

UNO physics professor Lendell Hillhouse said he believes these events are great opportunities for people on campus to view the eclipse safely and in a social environment.

“We’re going to have telescopes set up with safety equipment, solar viewers and solar glasses stations. Safety and comfort are very important,” said Hillhouse. “Anytime you talk about a sun event, you don’t want people running around without the proper equipment looking at the sun.”

Without the proper filters in telescopes, binoculars or cameras, eye damage will occur in fractions of a second and may be permanent.

“It’s going to be a good time but we want to make sure everyone enjoys it safely,” Hillhouse said.

From 11 a.m. through the end of the eclipse, UNO’s Mallory Kountze Planetarium will be open for observation. Four telescopes will be set up along the south side of Durham Science Center, along with two solar viewing screens projecting the eclipse.

In addition to the work being done on campus, the UNO-based Nebraska Space Grant will take part in the eclipse. Local students will assist NASA scientists as they live-stream the eclipse from a height of up to 100,000 feet, which will be available for viewing on NASA’s website.