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Eclipse shadow will darken our skies

There will be a total solar eclipse this summer that will occur over part of Oregon. Would you tell us where in Oregon that eclipse will be total and what we will experience here in Southern Oregon?

— Douglas

Sometimes we here at Since You Asked find our feet stuck in the mud, Douglas. So to answer your question, we turned to a man who's got his eyes on the sky, Robert Black, planetarium director and astronomy teacher at North Medford High School.

The good teacher tells us that, indeed, there will be a full solar eclipse passing through Oregon Aug. 21, centered on a slightly southward curving path whose center will hit landfall at 10:15 a.m. just north of Newport. It will then pass midway between Salem and Albany and just north of Madras, Mitchell and John Day in Eastern Oregon. The full eclipse, Black tells us, will be 68 miles wide, meaning that along Interstate 5, it will stretch from near Aurora in the north to Brownsville, north of Eugene.

We here in the Rogue Valley won't get the full meal deal, but we will indeed see a good portion of the eclipse, with about 93 percent of the sun obscured in Medford at the height of the eclipse. There's a very cool interactive website at https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov that allows you to find out the percentage of the eclipse at any spot by clicking on a map. And the site has plenty of other fascinating details.

Black has a few details of his own:

  • The umbra — the darkest part of the shadow of the eclipse — will be moving at 2,400 mph, which is about 200 mph faster than the fastest jet in the U.S. Air Force.
  • According to his research, there will not be another full solar eclipse visible in Oregon for at least 200 years. There will be one in Texas in 2024.
  • You definitely need to wear eye protection — much more than just sunglasses — as there will be only about two minutes out of the two hours of the eclipse that will be in total darkness, and that's only in the 68-mile-wide swath of the full eclipse. Staring at the eclipse without real eye protection could seriously damage your vision.
  • Within that swath — weather permitting — viewers will be able to see planets and stars in the sky overhead.

And he notes that just because the full eclipse won't occur here, there's nothing to stop you from getting in your car for a relatively short trip north to see what he calls "the rarest occurrence in astronomy, besides asteroid destruction."

All things considered, we'll take the eclipse over the asteroid.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.