Some cool, and kind of weird, things that can happen during a full solar eclipse
It’s less than a week from the Great American Eclipse when visitors from all over the country and world descend on our small plot of land, and it seems that all anyone is talking about is that influx of visitors. We seem to be missing the best part of all, the actual eclipse.
The last solar eclipse that covered the entire lower 48 states was back in 1918, that means most people alive today have never seen a full solar eclipse. It really will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. While it is important to plan for potential annoyances and inconveniences that come with large groups of people, don’t let that block out the truly remarkable event that will happen.
It won’t just be the moon covering the sun, putting us here on earth in its shadow, some other very cool, slightly weird, things will happen before, during, and after totality.
Spectators that look at the horizon during totality will witness the colors of the sunrise and sunset around them in every direction. This 360-degree sunset effect is caused by the light from the sun in areas outside of the path of totality and only lasts as long as the face of the sun is covered by the moon.
As the moon causes day to turn to night, the darkness will reveal the stars in the sky as well as a few planets. People shouldn’t waste too much time looking for planets and constellations since many of these can be seen at night during different parts of the year. However, the eclipse will make it easy to spot mercury, a planet that can be tricky to spot due to its close proximity to the sun.
Not only will an eclipse cause the environment to appear different, but also feel different. Depending on factors such as the time of year, cloud cover and the length of totality, the air temperature can drop more than 20 degrees F. Astronomers aren’t expecting the temperature to drop quite that much for this eclipse, but people may still feel the temperature drop by around 10 degrees F.
Something else rare to look for during the total eclipse is something called shadow bands or shadow snakes. Shadow bands are thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that can be seen moving and undulating in parallel on plain-colored surfaces immediately before and after a total solar eclipse. Scientists still do not fully understand what causes shadow bands, but they only occur during the seconds leading up to and the seconds immediately following totality. This phenomenon doesn’t happen during every eclipse, so it’s not a guarantee to see them. However, if you set up a large white poster board, piece of plastic, or bed sheet at your eclipse viewing site, it’s possible you may see them moving across the white surface.
And of course there are the cool things you’ll see as you watch the actual eclipse, like Baily’s Beads, or beads of light from the sun that shine through the topography of the moon’s mountains and valleys, the “diamond ring” affect that happens right before and right after totality, and the corona during complete totality.
Odd things will also happen to the animal world. During longer eclipses birds will roost and nocturnal animals may wake up and start moving. The eclipse in our area will be just shy of 3 minutes so birds may not completely roost, but may start singing evening songs as it starts to get dark and then may start singing as if it’s morning as the moon moves away from the sun. It’s also possible that crickets may begin to chirp during totality.
So on Monday, August 21st, keep an eye out for these cool, and kind of weird, things that will happen as the moon moves across the sun.