Fellow Montanans, it’s time for your second wake-up call concerning the upcoming solar eclipse — the celestial event of the summer, if not a lifetime. Pencil “eclipse day” into your day planners for August 21, and set aside the time window of roughly 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to experience the whole event. It will feature, on average, an astonishing 90 percent totality for many of us in the Treasure State.
There are lots of community resources out there to help you enjoy the eclipse, so let’s run down a few highlights:
Hamilton’s Bitterroot College, an affiliate of the University of Montana, will have a solar-filtered telescope set up for public viewing. They will also be live-streaming the event on the Bitterroot College Facebook page. The solar filters for the telescope were made in the college’s very own Fabrication Laboratory (or Fab Lab, for short), which is a unique resource featuring 3D printers and other high-tech widgets. Stop on by, learn about the Fab Lab, and register on the Great Eclipse Caper website to guarantee yourself one of the pairs of eclipse-safe glasses that will be handed out at the event.
As an important note, we all love our eye doctors, so let’s not make them waste their talents on eclipse-related eyeball repairs. In other words, you must protect your eyes. Please don’t “shine on” this warning: regular sunglasses won’t protect you.
The Moon Joggers of Helena are sponsoring a “Total Eclipse of the Sun Run 5K and 10K.” Every participant who ponies up a $17 registration fee will receive a commemorative medal and a race bib. To make it even sweeter, the sponsors will donate 15 percent to the Skin Cancer Foundation. So, you get cool eclipse souvenirs and a workout, as well as helping to support a great cause. “Moon jogging” won’t be as stylin’ as Michael Jackson’s “moon walking,” but it promises to be faster!
A number of libraries around the state will offer a limited number of free, eclipse-safe glasses. The Missoula Public Library, for example, is handing out 1,000 pairs of glasses to the public. Stop by and get yours soon! The library will also host an event in Kiwanis Park on eclipse day, as well as additional activities in the weeks preceding the event.
Other libraries around the state, such as those in Butte and Polson, will provide similar services. We encourage folks to touch base with their local public library to discover what will be offered in the way of eclipse glasses and educational activities.
For “party animals,” the NASA website has kindly put together an “eclipse party kit,” which provides great educational suggestions, even if it doesn’t include a recipe for “cosmos” cocktails. Another useful resource is the Exploratorium website, which offers simple instructions for how to set up your own live streaming, as well as fun tips for food, music, and activities. (And, if you are serving “Moon Pies,” don’t assume this means you can do something indecent in front of a dessert.)
For “couch potatoes” — or those who decline to break a sweat in the August heat — the cable channel Science will provide live eclipse coverage on air and online from a variety of U.S. locations. Check out their website for broadcast details.
Finally, as a July 23 article in Newsmax points out, don’t assume that you can hop in your vehicle and travel to wherever you want to view the eclipse. You’re more apt to end up in the “Great American Parking Lot,” which is likely to occur on many roads from Oregon to South Carolina. Also, at this late date — assuming you’re even able to secure a hotel room in the path of complete totality — be prepared to shell out an astronomical amount of money.
Don’t miss out on The Great Eclipse of 2017 — out of control and coming your way!