The solar system is preparing to give the United States the show of the century when the “Great American Eclipse” reveals itself Monday.
Columbus East biology teacher Derek Chastain already has been doing a bit of “astro-photography” to prepare for the eclipse. He will bring a specially prepared telescope to allow East students in science classes to observe the eclipse Monday afternoon and to photograph it.
Local residents won’t see a 100 percent eclipse. The longest anyone will be able to witness a total eclipse will be in Hopkinsville, Kentucky — about 240 miles southwest of Columbus, in southwestern Kentucky — at 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
But Chastain says that about 1 or 1:30 p.m. Monday, the eclipse will begin and will be at its peak at about 2:21 p.m. to about 2:24 p.m., at 92 to 93 percent of a total eclipse.
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It’s been 99 years since Americans have had a chance to view a coast-to-coast solar eclipse. The next one, in July 2019, will only be visible in parts of Argentina and Chile.
Students at Columbus East High School and Central Middle School ordered early and received boxes of eclipse glasses that will allow them to view the solar eclipse Monday afternoon.
East students will watch on the west side of the school near the tennis courts. East’s science department is inviting students who can talk their way out of class to stop in to watch as long as they can.
At Central, about 118 eighth grade students will be viewing the eclipse through cereal box reflective viewers that they have built as part of their preparation for the eclipse, teacher Sheila Blake said. The science aspect of the lesson will require students to measure variables such as temperature and color perceptions during the eclipse.
The students will also have eclipse-related assignments in English, math and social studies, she said.
In language arts, students will write letters to their “future self” with details about the day of the eclipse. In social studies, the students will work on the myths that ancient cultures had about eclipses and how it affected their lives. Students will also compare how the eclipse is being commemorated Monday as compared to years ago. For math, they will estimate the speed of the lunar shadow across the sun, working five different problems that involve interpreting data, creating graphs and doing calculations.
Karen Sollenberger, a junior high science teacher at St. Peter’s Lutheran School, placed early orders of solar eclipse viewing glasses for all of the students and staff at the school, anticipating the last-minute rush and search for the glasses.
Ivy Tech Community College _ Columbus will host a solar eclipse viewing part from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday in the quad area behind Poling Hall, 4475 Central Ave. The college’s science faculty will attend to explain the eclipse and answer questions. The college will provide the special glasses necessary to view it. “I Saw the Solar Eclipse” sun stress balls will be handed out while supplies last along with Moon Pies and Sun Chips.
The Bartholomew County Public Library is planning a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party and will provide solar eclipse glasses while supplies last. They have about 100 at the Columbus location and will also have a number of glasses at the Hope Library branch, with activities from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday.
There will be solar-themed snacks including Sun Chips, Moon Pies and Sunkist Soda, said Mary Clare Speckner, programming services coordinator for the library.
Music for the event will be provided by Spotify’s eclipse watching selections including, but not limited to:
“Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Tyler
“Staring at the Sun,” Jason Aldean
“Fly Me to the Moon,” Frank Sinatra
“Blinded by the Light,” Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
“Moonshadow,” Cat Stevens
“Things Behind the Sun,” Nick Drake
“A Sky Full of Stars,” Coldplay
“A Place in the Sun,” Stevie Wonder
“Brighter than the Sun,” Colbie Caillat
“Here Comes the Sun,” the Beatles
“Ain’t No Sunshine,” Bill Withers
Those attending the party are advised to bring a lawn chair or a blanket for comfortable viewing. For those who don’t want to stay outside, the library will livestream NASA’s broadcast of the solar eclipse inside the library building.
Meanwhile, out on the interstate
The Indiana Department of Transportation is warning motorists to prepare for traffic congestion on southern Indiana interstates before and after the solar eclipse Monday. About 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the eclipse path and many will be on the road to get a closer view, INDOT says.
Interstate 69, U.S. 41 and U.S. 231 are expected to see higher-than-normal southbound traffic as motorists head for western Kentucky, where the moon’s full eclipse may be viewed within a 70-mile stretch encompassing Hopkinsville, Paducah and Madison.
Interstate 65 is forecast to see more traffic, too, beginning at Bowling Green, Kentucky and extending beyond Nashville, Tennessee.
If you’re planning on staying on the Indiana side of the river, Evansville should have a partial eclipse of 99 percent and Jeffersonville will see 96 percent.
Indiana State Police sent out an email reminder to the media asking for help in telling motorists that troopers will take a dim view of drivers stopping along the interstate to watch the eclipse.
Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, Indiana State Police spokesman for the Versailles district, confirmed state law prohibits motorists from stopping on the interstate except in case of an emergency. And in his book, the eclipse won’t qualify as an emergency.