Understanding the solar eclipse and why it occurs

LAS VEGAS - All of the United States and southern Nevada are buzzing about the 2017 solar eclipse.

"Everyone should take at least a couple of seconds to head outside and get a look at it, safely of course," said Dr. Andrew Kerr, CSN Planetarium Manager.

But there's just one problem: It's getting harder to find the special sunglasses that have to be worn to protect your eyes during an eclipse.

According to the Planetarium at the College of Southern Nevada's North Las Vegas Campus, the phone's at the CSN Planetarium have been ringing off the hook.

The 2017 eclipse is very popular, and everyone's excited about it, but what's an eclipse?

"The moon and the sun are almost the same sizes in the sky by just a trick of nature," Dr. Kerr said.  "The moon is actually tilted a little bit as it goes around the earth, as the earth is going around the sun, so they don't line up all the time, which is why we don't have an eclipse every month. But when they do line up we get the spectacular image of a solar eclipse. Or sometimes the moon will wind up on the other side, and we get to watch the moon disappear into the earth's shadow."

According to Dr. Kerr, that's a lunar eclipse.  So, why so much excitement about the eclipse?

"The only part that totality will touch is United States soil, Dr. Kerr said. "So, I think  there's a very "rah-rah, go U.S." type of an aspect of the coverage."

Now as far as the protective glasses are concerned don't panic if you're not able to get a pair in time for the big day.  You can make a looking device from scratch!

"You can do shoe box, pin-hole, anything you want," Dr. Kerr said.  "Even just two pieces of cardboard with a hole in one or you can come out here to the planetarium and get a look at the telescopes for free."

The planetarium will open at 9 a.m. on Monday morning and stay open until the moon's shadow completely leaves the sun - just before noon. There will also be a special guest at the planetarium with his own stash of eclipse glasses.

"Kyle Johnson is a JPL Solar System ambassador," Dr. Kerr said.  He has 200 pairs (of glasses) that he's going to give away to the first 200 people," Dr. Kerr said.  "The JPL Solar System ambassadors is a really good program. They train folks to essentially spread the word about NASA and JPL."

Nevada is about 800 miles away from the eclipse's path of totality, so the state will only see a partial eclipse.

"We're not really going to notice too much. But even with 72 percent of the sun being covered, it's still going to be very very bright," according to Dr. Kerr.  "Most people will probably be able to go about their day and not even notice any change."

Will the weather affect the eclipse?

"If it's cloudy, then we'll have live streams (of the eclipse in other areas).  Luckily, we live in Las Vegas, so there's a very good chance, no matter what, that's it's going to be clear for the morning, at least," Dr. Kerr said.


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