St. Louis Area Offers Best Chances at Viewing Eclipse

MU experts talk of this rare opportunity

By Nichole Richardson

Sun Light at the Bottom of Shadow of the Moon on the Sun

Sun Light at the Bottom of Shadow of the Moon on the Sun

On Monday, Aug. 21, St. Louis area residents will get the thrill of witnessing the first total solar eclipse here since 1442. During this time the moon will come between the Earth and the Sun, thus creating a shadow, or umbra, 70 miles wide over the Earth.

Because the umbra is so narrow, on average, a total eclipse of the sun is visible from the same spot on Earth only once in about every 375 years so it is unlikely our area will see one again.

Though Missouri ranks number one out of the twelve states in the eclipse’s path, with an estimated 3.4 million people able to view it, unfortunately not everyone in St. Louis will get to observe the shadow’s full capacity, or totality.

The show starts in Missouri in St. Joseph, then moves southeasterly through Columbia to Cape Girardeau and into Illinois. This is the first time ever that the total eclipse will pass over only the U.S., thus being dubbed by many the “Great American Eclipse.”

It is predicted that in Florissant, there will be a “partial” eclipse (about 99.5% totality) that begins at 11:49 a.m. and continues through its phases, hitting the high point of darkness at 1:17 p.m. and ending the full cycle at 2:43 p.m.

The longest duration anyone in our area will see totality is 2 minutes 41 seconds and that will occur further south towards Jefferson County.

While parts of South County will see a total eclipse, the viewing in North County and St. Charles County will still be pretty spectacular, if it’s sunny outside.

“There are a lot of people just outside the path of totality that don’t realize how much they miss by not seeing a 100% eclipse. 99% Eclipse is not 99% of the experience. At 99% there is still 1% of the sun visible.

"Moon Dot" at the top right

“Moon Dot” at the top right

“The sun is a million times brighter than the full moon, so at 1%, the sun is still 10,000 times as bright as the full moon. That’s too much light. The sky doesn’t get dark enough to see the Corona or stars and planets etc.,” explained Angela Speck, professor of astrophysics and director of astronomy in the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy and co-chair of the St. Louis Eclipse Task Force.

Even plants and animals will react to the daytime darkness but not enough to produce lasting effects. “Indeed plants WILL respond to the eclipse, BUT it will have little to no impact on the seasonal growth or production.  “The rapid but temporary change in light intensity caused by the eclipse will result in several normal adaptive plant responses to charges in light intensity being activated,” said phototropism researcher and professor of biological sciences at MU’s Bond Life Sciences Center. Certain animals, such as birds, may go still as they await the planets and stars to greet them.

With an event this monumental it is no wonder why droves of people will be flocking to St. Louis to catch a glimpse of this rare opportunity. There are masses of “eclipse watch parties” planned throughout the state and country, with the furthest north of us being in Bellfountaine Neighbors.

There will be Solar Eclipse Social at Wild Wood Valley Gardens on the grounds of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cemetery will provide viewing glasses, light lunch, and refreshments. Space is limited and reservations are required. $10 donations are suggested.

Alton is gearing up with a big riverfront party and their viewing is rated at 99.4%. A free Solar Eclipse Viewing Party will be held at the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Live music, a live feed from NASA of the eclipse occurring nationwide, food and drinks, and a variety of games will be held during the party. Free NASA-approved solar eclipse viewing glasses will be distributed to the first 800 people in attendance.

Wherever you go to watch, it is dire to keep in mind that one must take precautions to guard themselves from damaging their eyesight while trying to view the eclipse.

The main area of the eye that could be adversely affected is the retina, or light-sensitive nerve layer of the eye. Regular sunglasses will not be enough to protect the eyes from the high-intensity ultraviolet light of the sun and it’s important to wear special eclipse viewing glasses.

“Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse can cause solar retinopathy; when the sun burns the rods and cones of the retina, creating small blind areas. This can lead to a temporary or even permanent decrease in vision acuity,” said Dr. Frederick Fraunfelder, director of ophthalmology at University of Missouri Health Care and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the MU School of Medicine.

Damage to the eyes can occur quicker than one might imagine- as little as three to five seconds of looking into the sun; therefore it is doubly important to make sure children understand the consequences of not following viewing rules.

It is suggested that children only remove their eclipse glasses for about a minute during the corona eclipse period. Here in Florissant, that is expected to be at 1: 17 p.m.

Taking this precaution will ensure that children have eclipse glasses on during the harmful partial phase of the eclipse.

While pain may be experienced from incorrectly viewing the eclipse, it may not be the only indicator that damage has been done.

“Additionally, you may experience what is called an after image. This happens when you look at a bright object, and when you look away or close your eyes, you still see that object. These images usually go away in a few minutes, but prolonged exposure to the sun could cause these after images to persist. If that is the case, I would suggest seeking medical attention,” warns Dr. Fraunfelder.

Eclipse Viewing in St.Louis Set to be Amazing-No Matter Partial or Full!

Eclipse stages

Stages of the Eclipse

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