By Jan Worth-Nelson
The sun’s greatest show on earth in years will be Monday, Aug. 21, and Flint’s Longway Planetarium, the largest planetarium in Michigan, is ready.
Even though the first total solar eclipse in 40 years will reach only 82 percent totality in Flint, Planetarium Manager Buddy Stark reports there are many ways to experience it here.
Longway’s events on The Day — many free — run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., all ages welcome, including telescope observing, live streaming from the path of totality in the planetarium dome, outdoor hands-on activities, and food available for purchase. A documentary, “Eclipse: The Sun Revealed” costs $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and kids 2-11, and will be shown at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Detailed information is available here, at the Longway site online.
The planetarium, recognizable by its big blue dome, is in the Cultural Center, 1310 E. Kearsley St. in downtown Flint.
The eclipse itself will start at about 1:30 p.m. and reach its peak at about 2:20. The time of greatest coverage will be about two minutes.
“Do go outside and see it for yourself,” Stark advises. “But be sure to wear eye protection.” Looking straight at the sun can strain eye muscles and the eyeballs can be burned by an overload of electrical signals the eye produces in reaction to light.
The planetarium has stocked thousands of eclipse glasses, available in the gift shop for one dollar each.
At the peak of the eclipse, assuming the weather cooperates, it will seem like dusk, Stark said. Sometimes millions of tiny eclipses can be visible in the shadow of leaves, he said, and birds have been known to hush their singing.
In the totality path, it will be dark enough to see stars, he said.
In ancient times people feared eclipses, which occur when the tilt of the earth’s orbit around the sun and the moon’s orbit around the earth are just right during a new moon phase for the moon to line up exactly over that big golden orb.
Some ancient peoples thought the eclipse was a dragon eating the sun, and sometimes beat pots and pans to get the dragon to go away, Stark says,
The last total eclipse visible in the United States was before Stark was born – and as a planetarium manager, scientist and astronomy professional, he can’t wait for this one.
He’ll actually be in Southern Illinois on Aug. 21, lucky enough to have a viewing location where his parents live. He will have picked three locations, avidly watching the weather forecast to land himself in the one most likely to be clear.
Hotels along the path of totality have been booked solid for a year, and Stark said to expect heavy traffic to and from the totality path, which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina.
If you miss this one, there’s another total eclipse coming in 2024, Stark said. He’ll likely be chasing that one, too.
More information on the eclipse is available here at http://sloanlongway.org/longway-planetarium/.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.