COLUMBIA, Mo. - Mid-Missouri residents will soon get a rare view of an out-of-this-world event.
We are 175 days away from the total solar eclipse of 2017, and the August 21st event is expected to be epic!
In a 1979 report on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, the journalism legend pointed out the total solar eclipse in February of that year was the “last total eclipse of the sun for North America until the year two thousand seventeen.”
That once futuristic-sounding year is here and the celestial promise Cronkite foretold is coming. As are the crowds of eclipse enthusiasts.
Dr. Angela Speck is the director of astronomy at the University of Missouri. “Think what it's like for (Mizzou) Homecoming, or when True/False happens, or Roots N Blues N BBQ and how many people come to town. And then think about what it's like at the stadium on a game day. And think about what that's going to be like in a path 70 miles wide all across the state,” said Speck.
That 70 mile wide path is called the umbra. Most people know a solar eclipse is when the moon's shadow falls on the earth. The shadow is made of two concentric cones. In the larger penumbra, people will see a partial solar eclipse. But those of us in the umbra will experience a total eclipse. It's a rare moment many people will want to experience. And accommodating the big crowds could turn out to be an astronomical challenge.
Speck said emergency services will be working overtime but said there’s no precedent for an event of this magnitude. Speck said, “It's kind of like a natural disaster; it's just we know it's going to happen and hopefully nobody's going to die.”
Megan McConachie of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau calls the eclipse a big deal! She said her team has been working on the August event for more than a year labeling it “CoMo Eclipse: Show Me Totality!” McConachie said, “We have national and international interest on this. We have the Boston Astronomy Club that will be coming to do their viewing here in Mid-Missouri. We've had calls from London, calls from Georgia, calls from California. So, there are a lot of people who are learning about the eclipse who may already be eclipse enthusiasts and are finding out about Columbia.”
She compares the eclipse “a really busy football game on a Monday afternoon.” She said the city will try to send the bulk of traffic to two major viewing locations; Cosmo Park and Gans Creek Recreation Area.
If you don't think you can accommodate incoming family and friends in your own house, you may want to tell them to book a hotel room now as McConachie and Speck both expect the city’s hotels, motels and even AirBnB properties will be booked solid.
As the planets literally align, you can safety observe the eclipse in a variety of ways. Here is a link to eclipse viewing safety reminders.
ABC 17 News will be following the city and community planning leading up to the eclipse.
But don’t miss it! After August, you'll have to wait until 2024 to see another total solar eclipse and it won’t be visible from anywhere in Mid-Missouri.