On the path to totality

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By Sue Hughes | For The Times-Post

PENDLETON — One child said she wanted to learn about why eclipses seem to happen so randomly.
Another said she wanted to know how eclipses work — and that the excitement surrounding the upcoming solar phenomenon is compounded for her by the fact that it coincides with her grandfather’s birthday.
Youngsters and adults filled the event at Pendleton Community Public Library on March 12 to listen to Rick Galloway from Indiana Astronomical Society talk about eclipses — what they are, their history and what to expect to see in the sky on April 8.
“We are very, very lucky to live where we do — we don’t have to travel to see the eclipse,” Galloway said, speaking about the good fortune of living in the path of totality, the area in which the moon will completely block the sun.
Using volunteers, Galloway showed why solar eclipses happen; when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, it casts a shadow.
“So why doesn’t this happen every month?” he asked rhetorically. “The moon’s tilt keeps that from happening.”
Galloway said it’s been a while since Indiana has had a total eclipse.
“This one coming, this is the granddaddy of them all,” he said.
He said an annular solar eclipse occurred in October 2023. That is when the moon is too far from the earth to make a big difference, it’s also known as a ring of fire. “It’s kind of like going to Disney Land, pulling in the parking lot and not going in. You’re not getting the whole show,” he said.
Although eclipses happen everywhere, most of them happen over the ocean, he said.
The path of totality for the coming eclipse moves up through Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio before continuing to Canada.
“The one after this doesn’t happen in the United States for another 20 years,” Galloway said.

Rick Galloway from the Indiana Astronomical Society interacts with a child in the audience during a talk about eclipses last week at Pendleton Community Public Library.

The most recent total solar eclipse in Indiana was in 1869.
That’s why Mary Wright was there March 12, she said.
“It’s very interesting, and we are not going to get another opportunity.”
The next total solar eclipse in Indiana won’t take place until 2153.
Cave drawings have been found thousands of years old that depicted eclipses.
“Native Americans seriously thought it was a bear gobbling up the sun,” Galloway said.
The eclipse in Pendleton will last 3 minutes and 15 seconds, he said. Depending on where a person is in Indiana in relation to the path of totality, it will be seconds longer or shorter.
“Six hundred million years from now there won’t be solar eclipses,” he said.
“The reason is when we went to the moon, we literally put mirrors there; we know that the moon is moving further away from the earth,” he said.
Galloway started his presentation talking about the special glasses necessary to view the eclipse.
“Make sure they are ISO certified,” he said, adding, “I have heard reports of many glasses making their way here that are not certified. Please do not use them.”
Later, when he returned to the topic, he said people must wear glasses when they are looking at the sun until totality — when the sun is completely covered.
“At totality you take your glasses off — if you don’t, you won’t be able to see anything at all.”
According to Madison County Emergency Management, totality will last 3 minutes, 42 seconds — from 3:07.07 to 3:10.49 p.m.
After totality, the glasses must go back on, Galloway said.
He said people also can use binoculars or telescopes, but they must use an appropriate filter.
“To hammer it home, do not look at the sun without a filter with whatever you’re using,” he instructed, “you can even get a filter for your cell phone.”
Galloway said he spoke with an ophthalmologist after the 2017 eclipse in Kentucky who said he saw many patients with crescent-shaped burns in their eyes.
Galloway recommended an app that will talk to you and tell you how much time it takes until the eclipse starts and when you should put on and take off your glasses.
The app, Solar Eclipse Timer, is $1.99 and available in the app store.
The eclipse, which will be a 2½-hour process, will begin in the southern sky.
“A challenge in Indiana in April is cloudy sky,” Galloway said. “The meteorological studies went back 100 years, and we only have a 40% chance to have clear skies.”
He added that U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been trying to estimate how many people live within a five-hour drive of the eclipse. They have determined that between 750,000 and one million people could be coming to Indiana.
Galloway said the problem won’t be before the eclipse but rather after it’s over.
They say it will be like 70 Super Bowls letting out at the same time.
“I know this firsthand,” Galloway said, referring to his experience in 2017. “After the eclipse in Kentucky it took me 9½ hours to make the 3-hour trip home, and I waited several hours after the eclipse was over.”
He added, “If you don’t have to go anywhere that day, stay home. The interstates are going to be packed and people are going to start taking backroads, like through Pendleton.
“Even if the day turns out to be cloudy, we will still be able to notice that it is getting darker. Nocturnal animals will start to come out, and you will hear crickets just like it was night.”