How to safely watch a solar eclipse
The moment of darkness is fast approaching.
The U.S. will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918 on Aug. 21. But not all Americans will see it equally.
Most of the Sunflower State will see only a partial eclipse, where the moon covers part of the sun. More than 90 percent of the sun will be blocked out in Wichita and much of southeastern, central and northwestern Kansas.
“This is going to be a very significant amount of the sun covered up by the moon,” said Harold Henderson, Lake Afton Public Observatory director. “You’re going to noticeably tell that a big portion of the sun is covered… whether you’re using eclipse glasses or not.”
“It would get noticeably dark outside,” he added.
The partial eclipse will begin around 11:36 a.m. and end around 2:32 p.m. in Wichita, according to the National Weather Service. About 92 percent of the sun will be blocked in Wichita at the height of the eclipse, shortly after 1 p.m.
“This is just a slow progression from beginning to end,” Henderson said. “It’s not like a light switch on and off. It’s going to be a gradual thing.”
But a partial eclipse that covers 99.9 percent of the sun’s surface will still be 1,000 times brighter than a full moon, according to the Kansas City Star.
The path of totality – where a total eclipse of the sun by the moon will completely block the light – will travel diagonally across America from Oregon to South Carolina.
Only a sliver of Kansas lies in the path of totality — cities in the far northeastern corner of the state like Atchison, Hiawatha and Leavenworth.
Kansans serious about astronomy have long since booked their hotels and trips to cities and towns that lie in the path of totality. Those places are embracing, but also bracing for, the unique event attracting thousands of people, where roads and parking could be heavily clogged.
People in the path of totality will see a partial eclipse at first. But what’s special is the “last little bit of sunlight just before totality,” Henderson said.
Observers will see Baily’s Beads, which are points of light that shine around the moon’s edges. They’re caused by light rays from sun streaming through valleys along the moon’s horizon, according to NASA.
And then totality: where the moon completely blocks the sun. It will last a few seconds up to more than two minutes, depending on where you are.
During totality, you’ll be able to see “lower layers of the sun’s atmosphere streaming off into space,” Henderson said.
You will also be able to see several planets and stars during totality due to the lack of light.
“The temperature can drop...The stars come out,” said Fred Gassert of the Kansas Astronomical Observers, a Wichita-based group. “It is instant climate change for two minutes.”
Henderson has only seen static photos of total solar eclipses; the Aug. 21 eclipse will be his first.
“You’ve got this beautiful scenario,” Henderson said. “I’m really excited about experiencing totality for myself just to have some answers.”
Events in the Path of Totality
Many events in Nebraska, Missouri and northeast Kansas that lie in the path of totality will be packed. But here’s some of what is happening:
Atchison: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eclipse Aire Fest at the Amelia Earhart Airport, 16701 286th Road. A vehicle pass is $10, available in advance online. Biplane rides are available before and after totality.
Leavenworth: 11 a.m to 2 p.m, Leavenworth Landing Park, 123 S. Esplanade. Solar eclipse viewing glasses will be handed out to the first 250 people. Food trucks will be there for lunch. Lawn chairs and blankets are recommended.
Hiawatha: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Brown County Blackout is located between the Fisher Center at 201 E. Iowa St. and Noble Park at 805 S. Morrill St. Event parking is $5. It includes a beer garden, inflatables, face-painting and a live band.
Marysville: Local activities begin on Sunday and include a music festival, free "E.T." movie and scavenger hunt; Lakeview Sports Complex is the main viewing site, with the eclipse occurring at 1:03 p.m.
Events in the partial eclipse
11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd. Special glasses provided to the first 500 guests. Hands-on activities. Lunch will be available for purchase from food trucks. 316-660-0620, www.exploration.org.
11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th Street North. If you take a cereal box, the staff will help you create a safe eclipse viewer. Take a picnic lunch. Kona Ice will sell snow cones. Crafts and games.
12:30 to 1:30 p.m, Citizens Bank of Kansas will have watch parties at its six locations. Free eclipse glasses while supplies last.
Hutchinson: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Kansas Cosmosphere, 1100 N Plum St. Attendees can view the eclipse in the Cosmosphere’s south parking lot using special solar telescope and binoculars. They will also receive a pair of eclipse glasses. Supplies are limited. Food trucks and free activities.
Topeka: Quincy Street Station, 820 SE Quincy Street. The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library will provide viewing glasses to Topeka Metro passengers. There will be a watch party starting at 11 a.m. at the library, 1515 SW 10th Ave. And Washburn University will host a watch party at Yager Stadium, 1700 SW College Ave.
Lawrence: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Shenk Sports Complex, 23rd and Iowa. The University of Kansas Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Natural History Museum will host an event with telescopes and science and art activities.
Pittsburg area: 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., PSU-Greenbush Astrophysical Observatory, 947 KS-47, Girard. This educational program costs $2.50 for the program and glasses and another $10 for lunch. Register online.