Eclipse: Predicting totality

LAS VEGAS - Science has evolved a lot over the past several thousand years to where NASA has a website listing the exact dates, times, and location for eclipses thousands of years into the future.

But when it comes down to next week's eclipse and claims that the path of totality can be pinpointed down to a neighborhood block? Dr. Andrew Kerr, the manager of the planetarium at the College of Southern Nevada's North Las Vegas campus says "not so fast."

"The path of totality aspect may be off by as much as 50 yards or even up to half a mile," Kerr said. "Because of issues with the sun being a plasma which is basically a fluid and so it kind of roils and boils at its surface. There are tsunamis, there are waves on it's surface and everything like that. And then we also have mountains and everything like that on the edge of the moon."

It means the path can end up being slightly different, which isn't really a concern here. Way back when, thousands of years ago, people who cared to take note of things like eclipses noticed there was a pattern to when they occurred. Dr. Kerr says they used that knowledge to their advantage.

"The leader would be out there saying, "'A dragon is going to devour the sun, and only I have the power to make the dragon leave the sun and go away.'"

He points out that education is the planetarium's mission.

"We do a lot of work with CCSD. A lot of the private schools come and visit. A lot of the daycares. A lot of the summer camps," Kerr said.

And they have partners, mostly people who enjoy astronomy as a hobby.

"The Las Vegas Astronomical Society is a tremendous friend and asset to the planetarium. Those guys are amazing. They are so selfless with their equipment. They will come out and help us at the drop of a hat."

Which includes next Monday, when the planetarium will have properly filtered telescopes as well as live Internet streaming from various locations across the country.  Dr. Kerr points out that while he's yet to see a total solar eclipse - in totality - he's already looking to the future.

"We've got one coming up in seven years. I think I'm probably going to chase totality for that one," he said.

One last viewing tip for Monday. Those eclipse glasses are very strong. Strong enough to make you virtually blind - where the light from the sun won't blind you. So, Dr. Kerr says shouldn't plan on walking around while wearing them.

"Yeah, you can't walk around. You want to stay in one spot when you have your eclipse glasses on. You're going to be looking up, and if you're then going to move around, you have to take them off and look away from the sun in order to do so," Dr. Kerr said.

You can get more information in our special eclipse section - #Eclipse2017: Everything you need to know
 


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