Roughly every 18 months or so, a total solar eclipse happens somewhere on the globe. For the first time in 26 years, this supernatural event comes to America – but the path of totality is only about 70 miles wide starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina.
The rest of the country will experience a partial eclipse, with the percentage depending on where you are. In southern New Mexico the moon will cover about 67 percent of the sun.
Ancient cultures believed when a solar eclipse occurred, as it will on Monday, Aug. 21, it was actually a dragon or demon (or possibly a toad or giant bird) attempting to eat the sun. The Chinese and Incas would make lots of noise and commotion during an eclipse in an attempt to frighten the beast away.
The word itself, “eclipse,” is Greek for abandonment, and to early civilizations it seemed like that was what happened. What today is a very exciting event for astronomers and the public alike was seen back then as a very bad omen.
• In Las Cruces, families can visit the Museum of Nature and Science from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Aug. 21 to join a special viewing of the solar eclipse. Staff members will be on hand with telescopes, sun spotters and special solar viewing glasses to assist in safely viewing the phenomenon.
• The “Total Eclipse of the Park” program at White Sands National Monument invites participants to learn about the history of solar eclipses and how they work. After the 10:30 a.m. program, a ranger will have a viewing station in front of the visitor center until 1:15 p.m. when the eclipse ends. Children’s activities featuring the National Park Service Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer program and badge made exclusively for this Great American Eclipse will be offered from noon to 1 p.m.
• The New Mexico Museum of Space History (NMMSH) in Alamogordo is planning a solar eclipse party beginning at 10:30 a.m., offering safe ways for families to view the eclipse.
“This will be a great opportunity for the public to learn about how the Sun influences our lives,” said NMMSH Executive Director Chris Orwoll. “Even though Alamogordo will only experience a partial eclipse, it is still a significant event.”
The museum is offering several activities for eclipse day, including a live feed from NASA of the total solar eclipse coverage along with webcasts from other sources and a workshop on how to create eye-safe pinhole solar eclipse viewers. Education Director Dave Dooling will talk about what causes eclipses and how they helped scientists discover the true nature of the Sun. These activities are free to the public and will be held on the first floor of the museum beginning at 10:30 a.m.
At 11:30, a few minutes before maximum eclipse, activities will move to the museum patio for observing through a Sunspotter and an H-alpha solar telescope as well as the pinhole viewers and eclipse glasses. In addition, the museum will have free eclipse glasses available while supplies last. Museum activities will end at 1:30 p.m.
Total eclipse of the sun in the U.S. starts on the west coast of Oregon at 10:16 a.m. Pacific time (11:16 MDT), heads southeast across the Lower 48 and exits through South Carolina at 4:49 p.m. Eastern time (2:49 MDT). In Alamogordo, the partial eclipse starts at 10:23 a.m., reaches maximum at 11:47:51 a.m., and ends at 1:17 p.m.
The NASA interactive eclipse map can be found at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html.