Experiencing the eclipse: Rotary to host presentation on solar occurrence

Greg McCauley, right, teaches John Salladay about solar eclipses. (Photos by Sadie Hunter)

By Anna Skinner

For the first time in more than 100 years, a solar eclipse will span the United States from coast to coast. The occurrence, also known as the Great American Eclipse, will have the longest period of totality in Hopkinsville, Ky. During this daytime total eclipse, the sky will go entirely dark.

In Indiana, there will be a partial eclipse with 91 percent totality.

According to Greg McCauley, executive director of Link Observatory Space Science Institute in Martinsville, the solar eclipse also will be the first time since the 1700s where it is only visible in the U.S.

A solar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and earth are in line with each other, and the moon blocks the view of the sun. Eclipses will occur 224 times this century. However, they rarely occur in the same spot. The Great American Eclipse will happen Aug. 21, and it will be visible in Indiana beginning at 2:25 p.m. and last  2 hours and 50 minutes. It will be the last such eclipse in this location for 600 years.

Solar eclipse viewing glasses are important to wear while viewing an eclipse to prevent damage to the eye. The Westfield Rotary Club will pass these out to attendees during its free informational event July 11.

“The moon is 238,000 miles from Earth but only 2,159 miles in diameter. The sun is 400 times further away and 400 times larger than the moon, so that equal size-to-distance ratio makes the sun and moon the same size in the sky,” McCauley said. “A partial eclipse is when (the viewer is) further north or south than the direct line between the sun and the moon. More sun peaks out behind the moon. A total eclipse is what happens when everything goes dark.”

The Westfield Rotary Club will host McCauley for a free presentation open to the public regarding the Aug. 21 eclipse at its 7:30 a.m. July 11 meeting at the Bridgewater Club. Special solar eclipse viewing glasses will be provided to attendees so they can safely view the eclipse when it occurs.

“This will be the most-viewed astronomical event in the country,” McCauley said. “It’s a big deal, a fun way for people to get engaged with the community. We will provide these inexpensive glasses so kids can watch it safely.”

Rotarian John Salladay said although the event is free, people should make a reservation.

“(The solar eclipse) is dangerous to look at, but people are tempted to look at it, so we are giving out these special glasses at the presentation,” Salladay said. “We are going to set this up less as a rotary club meeting and more as an event.”

As many as 200 people can attend the rotary event.

“We thought people didn’t know about it, we thought (the presentation) was a community service that people would appreciate,” Salladay said. “Occasionally, we host major speakers that are open to the public with widespread topics of community interest.”

For more, or to register, visit westfieldrotary.net.

Attend the total eclipse in Hopkinsville, Ky.

More than 1 million people will travel to Hopkinsville, Ky., to view the total solar eclipse Aug. 21.  Link Observatory Space Science Institute will take buses of people to Kentucky to view the eclipse. The partial eclipse phase in Hopkinsville will begin at 11:56 a.m., with totality beginning at 1:24 p.m. Buses will leave the Indianapolis area at 6:30 a.m. and return at 6:30 p.m. The tour costs $135 per adult and $110 per child. It includes a sack lunch, round-trip transportation, soda and water, solar eclipse glasses, an eclipse T-shirt and the opportunity to view the eclipse through an H-Alpha solar telescope. For more or to register, visit linkobservatory.org.