GeekWire reporters and correspondents are documenting the 2017 solar eclipse from the Pacific Northwest, including our home base in Seattle and locations in the “Path of Totality” in Oregon. Follow our eclipse adventures in this running live blog, and check out the headlines below to keep up with our coverage.
- Don’t panic, but be ready: Last-minute guide to the all-American solar eclipse
- As eclipse nears, astronomers issue warning about fake solar glasses
- Here comes the sun’s corona: What eclipse chasers will see during totality
- All along ‘zone of totality,’ small towns make big bets to cash in on darkness
- Oregon’s prime eclipse zone braces for the agony and the ecstasy of totality
There are lots of pictures out there showing the blacked-out sun during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. There’s even a picture of the International Space Station silhouetted by the partially eclipsed solar disk.
But how many pictures catch an airplane flying directly in front of the sun’s corona during totality?
Photographer Dustin Huntington posted just such a picture to SpaceWeather.com’s eclipse gallery, and it looked so good that at least one person was sure it was fake:
Stop flooding people with fake photoshopped pictures ! pic.twitter.com/LhV77HXvdw
— Tristan (@dodubassman) August 23, 2017
Since I retweeted a link to the picture, I felt duty-bound to find out whether this really was a case of Photoshop fakery. The fact that Huntington is a respectable nature photographer made the job easier.
After mistakenly bothering the other well-known photographer named Dustin Huntington (who shoots celebrity pictures), I asked for and received further details about the plane-in-the-eclipse pic, shot from Guernsey State Park in Wyoming.
Here’s what Huntington told me in an email:
“The picture is not fake. I got off 4 frames of the plane and I can send the raw files if you like. I also was shooting video, which shows the same plane fly through. It flew in very near the end of totality. I was shooting with the Sony A9 which shoots at 12 fps and expecting the “diamond ring” at any moment, so I just had it shooting away at full speed. Unexpectedly the plane flew in for a moment. A few people nearby said “was that a bird?” It was gone in a flash.
“At first I thought it must be one of the NASA planes, but I have not been able to find any indication that they were flying in Wyoming, and the shape does not look right for the ones they were flying in the east. I did find this Wired article on people using private jets.
“Seems like an odd way to go, since you can’t see up in normal jet, but who knows? Perhaps there were other non-NASA research flights, but I have not been able to find anything flying in central Wyoming.
“Anyway, the photo is genuine, but I have no idea what the plane is.”
The explanation was convincing enough that even the Twitter skeptic joined the quest to figure out what kind of plane it was. But the solution came from another sleuth, Josh Spradling, who took an almost identical picture at the same time at Glendo State Park in Wyoming:
— Josh Spradling (@JLSpradling) August 24, 2017
Spradling checked the timing against flight-tracking databases, and determined that the plane was a Boeing 737 — specifically, WestJet Flight 1582, which was flying over Wyoming on its way from Calgary to Dallas when the eclipse took place.
The key piece of evidence comes in the form of a map added to Spradling’s original Facebook post. “I believe I’ve found the flight. … The green dot was where I was located,” he wrote:
It’s an amazing feat of detective work — so amazing that even WestJet was impressed:
Wow! Great capture!
— WestJet (@WestJet) August 29, 2017
Before Monday’s total solar eclipse, the special viewing glasses were being sold for as much as $10 a pair, if you could find them.
Now that it’s over, don’t throw them out.
Astronomers Without Borders, a nonprofit group headquartered in California, says it’ll collect gently used glasses, have them checked out, and then bundle them up for distribution in advance of future eclipses.
The current plan is to give the glasses to schools in South America and Asia, which will be in the zone for the next solar eclipse in 2019.
— Astro w/o Borders (@awb_org) August 19, 2017
Astronomers Without Borders is still working out the logistical details, including where to send those used glasses. For now, the big message is to hang onto your glasses, and sign up for AWB’s newsletter or keep a watch on the organization’s Facebook page for further details.
UPDATE: Some glasses may have labels saying that they should be thrown out after three years, but in its eclipse safety advisory, NASA says that information may be outdated.
“Some glasses/viewers are printed with warnings stating that you shouldn’t look through them for more than 3 minutes at a time and that you should discard them if they are more than 3 years old. Such warnings are outdated and do not apply to eclipse viewers compliant with the ISO 12312-2 standard adopted in 2015.”
And now for something completely different: today’s solar eclipse, as seen from outer space.
— Mattias Malmer (@3Dmattias) August 23, 2017
— NASA (@NASA) August 21, 2017
— Jonathan Erdman (@wxjerdman) August 21, 2017
MADRAS, Ore. – The traffic apocalypse that many feared would happen before today’s total solar eclipse cropped up afterward instead.
Traffic out of Salem, Oregon’s capital city, was particularly horrendous, according to the congestion map provided by TripCheck.com.
At one point, the color-coded map had Interstate 5 tinted in an ugly shade of red heading northbound to Wilsonville, near Portland, and heading southbound to Eugene.
I5 @ Jefferson Exit Marion County. Please be patient and have a safe trip home. pic.twitter.com/wDjikkm2CM
— Marion Co. Sheriff (@MCSOInTheKnow) August 21, 2017
Traffic in central Oregon, which has the nation’s best historical record for clear skies at this time of year, was jammed up as well. TripCheck reported delays ranging from 20 minutes to two hours for Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Baker City and other eclipse hot spots.
One member of our eclipse-watching group, Eric Baughman, said traffic was gridlocked on the way out of Solartown, a converted farm field that became Oregon Solarfest’s largest campsite.
Madras’ jam-ups were so bad that the Oregon National Guard was called in to help direct traffic.
You can make out a military-looking vehicle in this picture, which Baughman took as his bus was crawling back toward Portland:
MADRAS, Ore. – What’s an appropriate soundtrack for a total solar eclipse? For Phoenix trumpeter Kevin Tangney, the repertoire includes Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the best-known theme music from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” plus some favorites from the “Star Wars” movies.
Tangney delighted skywatchers at the Oregon Solarfest in Madras by playing his trumpet just before and after the eclipse’s total phase.
So how much time did Tangney put into preparation for his performance? “About five minutes,” he told me. I never would have guessed …
A big crowd gathered at another iconic Seattle viewpoint, Gas Works Park.
Loved these budding entrepreneurs who were selling eclipse glasses at $2 a pop.
Taken by a Seattle-based photographer:
A post shared by Mike Monaghan (@mike_monaghan) on
The viewpoint at Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood is a beautiful spot to take in the city skyline, the water and Mount Rainier on just about any day. Monday’s total solar eclipse attracted an extra big crowd of locals, tourists, photographers and curious onlookers outfitted with special glasses, cardboard boxes and sunny smiles.
And here’s the other Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates:
A post shared by Bill Gates (@thisisbillgates) on
A few dozen eclipse spectators showed out at the Union Bay Natural Area on the shore of Lake Washington in Seattle. Most had solar glasses and some even had special camera equipment. Only Reitha and Russ Weeks brought a pinhole projector.
Reitha, a semi-retired bioengineer, had this to say about the experience: “I expected it to be dimmer… I noticed the temperature [drop] but we expected it to be at least sort of dusky. But we’re really pleased the pinhole paper plate works!”
Fun photos of Apptio employees taking in the eclipse at their offices in Bellevue.
Wow. There is a difference being in totality. Amazing to see and difficult to describe. It was like a 360 degree sunset.
My brother is in the path of totality near Charlotte, NC, and he’s trying to use this rare astronomical event to his advantage setting several traps in his garage and near his grill to capture some pesky mice. “Experts say that nocturnal animals will come out during the eclipse, and I ned to catch mice in my garage and in my grill,” he says.
The experience of totality here in Salem, Ore. was incredible. Everyone in the small group of friends and family that I was with was overwhelmed by the unique experience.
The latest from Alan in Madras: Total eclipse dims the sun over the U.S., bringing delicious darkness
Here’s a great shot from Alan Boyle in Madras, Oregon.
Photos from Kevin Lisota on Bald Mountain, Idaho.
A post shared by GeekWire (@geekwire) on
A post shared by GeekWire (@geekwire) on
The best is watching kids’ reactions to the eclipse. “is it going to disappear, mom?” asked one kid at Greenwood Park in Seattle. In the photo below is Intel engineer Jeremy Stephens, sporting a Cray computer hat and NASA t-shirt, showing some kids his eclipse viewing contraption.
GeekWire reporter Clare McGrane snapped this photo from her perch near the University of Washington in Seattle. She also is observing wildlife behavior.
GeekWire reporter Lisa Stiffler is intently watching the behavior of this flock of Seattle chickens as we near the peak of the solar eclipse. Will they freak out?
Temperature in Idaho has dropped by at least 10-20 degrees at the top of the mountains.
From GeekWire reporter Clare McGrane: Shadows of trees in the Union Bay Natural Area show the crescent of the sun as it starts to be eclipsed.
A good scene at Greenwood Park in North Seattle. A lot of families, and interesting contraptions to capture the solar eclipse.
Portland, OR, 8:35am.
This is a neat tool that shows what the eclipse will look like, depending on your location: https://www.precisioneclipse.com/
GeekWire contributing writer Tim Ellis is in Salem, Ore., where one public park is welcoming eclipse-watchers with a word of caution, and a public school district is instead warning them to stay away. His pics tell the story …
Sun Valley, ID – Traffic update from Idaho. I just travelled along ID-75 between Stanley and Sun Valley. Traffic was light between 6PM-7PM on Sunday.
It’s an easy trip now. Not sure what Monday morning will bring.
There are certainly folks who won’t make the trip to the path of totality until tomorrow, given the lack of accommodations, but it is also possible that the massive crowds predicted will be more modest here in Idaho.
Tonight we’ve got some high cirrus clouds. Hoping those clear by tomorrow morning. If the weather is like today, it will be perfect eclipse viewing conditions.
MADRAS, Ore. – One of the hottest attractions here at Oregon Solarfest is NASA.
Amid the county-fair booths, food trucks and musical acts, NASA researchers are telling standing-room-only crowds about the science they’re planning to do on Monday morning when the moon blots out the sun’s disk.
Nat Gopalswamy, a staff scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, leads a team that will use a special polarization camera to estimate the speed, temperature and density of material streaming from the sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona.
Such observations could help reveal the mechanism behind the dramatic heating that occurs in the corona.
“It’s a very interesting problem: how a 6,000-degree star can have a several-million-degree atmosphere,” Gopalswamy told a crowd of about 500 in a pavilion at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
These observations can be made on Earth only during a total solar eclipse, and Gopalswami won’t have much time to get the required data.
“We have been practicing two years for these two minutes,” he said.
Meanwhile, NASA staff and volunteers set up tables in a nearby exhibit hall to help kids make colorful masks and solar eclipse viewers.
More than 150 people lined up in the hot Oregon sun just to get in the door. “It’s been like this all day,” volunteer Corrie Engelson told me.
Soderman works for NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, or SSERVI, which has its central office at Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. He and Engelson couldn’t pass up the chance to be in the zone of totality in Oregon.
“We wanted to be more where the madness is,” Soderman joked.
One of the handouts is a children’s storybook that’s still in development, titled “Yes, I Work at NASA: No, I’m Not an Astronaut,” written by NASA graphic artist Jennifer Baer.
There are plenty of those NASA non-astronauts at Oregon Solarfest. Thank goodness.
MADRAS, Ore. – The big debate for eclipse-chasers has to do with balance: How much time do you spend documenting the eclipse, and how much do you spend just enjoying the experience?
Folks in the know say there’s a way to have it all: Let the computer take the pictures, leaving yourself free to take it all in.
“They’ve got it all set up, contact by contact,” John LaPlante, a software engineer from San Diego, told me as he practiced for Monday’s total solar eclipse at his Oregon Solarfest RV site. “It makes it easy.”
The software even sounds an alarm when it’s time to activate the script for the camera’s clicks, and more alarms to remind LaPlante to remove the solar filter on his 3.5-inch telescope (and put it back on when totality ends).
LaPlante said the trickiest part of the preparation is putting the software through an eclipse rehearsal. “That’s the most time-consuming thing: finding out how much the camera can handle,” he said.
But LaPlante makes sure he doesn’t forget the first priority for totality.
“I tell myself, John, if you f— up the camera, it’s no big deal,” he told me. “Just watch the eclipse.”
MADRAS, Ore. – How many total solar eclipses have you seen? This’ll be my third. Some here at Oregon Solarfest have seen six or more. And Williams College eclipse researcher Jay Pasachoff has seen dozens.
But technically speaking, the Apollo astronauts have us all beat, as moonwalker Buzz Aldrin pointed out on Twitter:
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) August 19, 2017
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) August 20, 2017
In this category, Apollo 11 command module pilot Mike Collins one-upped Aldrin and their late mission commander, Neil Armstrong.
Aldrin and Armstrong were on the lunar surface for some of Apollo 11’s 30 lunar orbits in 1969, and thus missed experiencing every “eclipse” in space. Collins, however, was in the thick of it each time he passed over the moon’s dark side.
Aldrin has some additional total solar eclipses under his belt, thanks to his Gemini 12 mission in 1966, plus a few blackouts he’s seen from Earth. This time around, he says he’ll be watching from Idaho.
GeekWire’s aerospace and science editor Alan Boyle reports from Madras that traffic to Oregon’s total eclipse zone has been surprisingly light over the past couple of days, but officials expect things to pick up overnight and into the morning. See his full story here.
GeekWire contributing writer Tim Ellis, in Salem, Ore., reports that activity there is surprisingly light, as well. A Reddit thread confirms this, but one person on Reddit notes that people are sleeping in cars at rest stops on the way to the path of totality, suggesting that many eclipse watchers just haven’t arrived yet.
Seattle’s favorite Science Guy, Bill Nye, talks with Variety about the significance of the eclipse: “When you experience the eclipse you will be in essence a space explorer, and when you become a space explorer you will make discoveries. Space exploration brings out the best in us.”
Nye will experience the eclipse at Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, Neb., with the Planetary Society. In the photo above, he’s watching the 2015 launch of the LightSail spacecraft.
MADRAS, Ore. – Monday’s total solar eclipse will be in black-and-white, but it’ll be witnessed by a colorful crowd.
For proof, check out these scenes from central Oregon:
Dixie Lee Schamens adds a pushpin to a map showing where eclipse fans are coming from to attend Oregon Solarfest in Madras, near the center of the path of totality for the eclipse.
Will this be Schamens’ first total solar eclipse? “Oh, yes, even though I’m 82 years old,” she said.
This colorful crew was just passing through Madras, on the way to the Oregon Eclipse Festival (a.k.a. Symbiosis Gathering) at Big Summit Prairie in Ochoco National Forest.
“Priscilla, Queen of the Doof” is an Australia-based party group, inspired by a drag-movie classic titled “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” They usually attend the Burning Man festival in Nevada, but this year they’re taking in the eclipse as well. About 30,000 other partygoers are joining them.
Jeff Powell, Cindy Powell, Mark Dagostino and “Bartman” came from the Tri-Cities to see the eclipse at Solarfest. The yellow and black balloons symbolize the sun and totality, but the sun-in-sunglasses banner is the piece de resistance.
Dagostino said he’s the one who made the banner. “It took me about 20 hours, total,” he said.
Retired engineer Esther Oberlin and her husband Aaron drove about 2,500 miles in their Tesla electric car, from Michigan to Madras. She said their son heads an engineering team at Tesla known as the “Smoke and Mirrors Department.”
Esther showed off the logbook she’s been keeping about the trip’s recharging stops and the car’s battery performance.
“The name of this car is ‘Thanks for College,'” she said. “It was a Christmas present from our son.”
Russ Fuller is the crew chief for the Dublin Mazda Racing Team in California, and he borrowed the team’s rig for the trip to Oregon Solarfest’s Solartown campground.
Years ago, the Mazda car dealership had problems with prowlers hanging around the lot, so to keep them away, it added a “Security” trailer to the racing team’s rig.
The Security sign (actually, “Securit,” without the “y”) is still on the trailer for Solarfest, and that’s led to some interesting encounters.
Fuller said one guy stopped by to get a parking pass validated. (He signed off on it.) Another camper came up to complain that a neighbor was encroaching on his spot.
“I just told them that they were gonna have to both get along, or we were gonna have to call the police,” Fuller said. “So they were able to work it out. It’s been a real fun and challenging thing.”
Now Fuller’s friends joke that he’s the “mayor of Solartown.”
MADRAS, Ore. – Would you pay $3,500 to stay five nights in half of a shipping container? Texas Tech astronomer Robert Morehead and his family did, and they say it’s totally worth it.
The containers have been outfitted with bunk beds for four, air conditioning, satellite TV and a private bathroom with a shower. Those are luxuries here at Oregon Solarfest, where thousands of total eclipse fans have set up on RV sites and bare-ground tent sites.
Robert Morehead’s mother, Frances, gave me a peek inside the apartment:
Robert’s initial eclipse strategy was to make an Airbnb reservation in Eugene, Ore., and drive north into the 70-mile-wide path of totality for Monday’s eclipse. But he had second thoughts after hearing about potential traffic troubles.
It was Frances who found out about the container accommodations. “The whole idea was to get into the path of totality well in advance of the event,” Robert said.
This week, Robert and his wife came up to Madras from Texas, while Frances and her husband traveled down from their home in Olympia.
When you average it out, that’s $175 per person per night for comfortable digs and no worries about having to walk long distances to find a restroom – or see celestial wonders.
“We’re blessed,” Frances Morehead said. “It’s been great.”
LA PINE, Ore. – If NASA ever wanted to create a simulated city on Mars, Oregon’s Lava River Cave could be the perfect place to do it.
The mile-long cave, which is part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, was carved out by flowing lava about 80,000 years ago. After the lava ran out, parts of the ceiling collapsed to the floor, leaving an opening through which visitors can descend.
The temperature inside the chamber is a constant 42 degrees Fahrenheit, tens of degrees cooler than a summer’s day in central Oregon. And because there are no artificial lights inside, you have to bring your own flashlight, or rent a lantern from the Forest Service folks up top.
It was fortunate for cavers that Lava River Cave had a “skylight” leading to the chamber below, and future interplanetary explorers may be just as fortunate. Orbital imagery shows signs of similar skylights on the moon and Mars. The lava tubes that run below could protect settlers from harsh surface radiation.
If that sounds like a science-fiction suggestion, it is: National Geographic’s recent docudrama series, “Mars,” has its fictional Mars crew setting up shop in a huge lava tube beneath the surface, as shown in this CGI scene from one of last season’s episodes:
Lava River Cave isn’t far south of the path of totality for Monday’s solar eclipse, and eclipse fans may well put it on their itinerary for an extra field trip. Who knows? By the time central Oregon sees its next total solar eclipse in 2169, lunar settlers will be looking down from their lava tubes while skywatchers are looking up.
STANLEY, ID – Besides being in the middle of totality for Monday’s eclipse, Stanley, Idaho lies at the heart of the spectacular Sawtooth mountain range.
The tiny town of Stanley is bracing for a crush of eclipse goers coming from Boise, but the past couple of days have been bustling, but not too crowded. Campgrounds are full in the area, though there appear to be a variety of dispersed camping options in this gigantic area. Today was hoppin’ at the little grocery store/gas station.
There are gigantic fields set aside for eclipse viewing areas along Hwy 75. While the fields could accommodate hundreds of thousands of folks, it remains to be seen how the winding two-lane highway deals with the traffic on Monday.
Local astronomy geeks were on hand to give a close-up of today’s sun and its sun spots.
While GeekWire’s Alan Boyle camps out in Madras, Ore., a different locale in the state tops Expedia’s list of “29 epic places to witness the 2017 Solar Eclipse”: Lincoln City, Ore., on the coast.
Why? “Of all the cities, Lincoln City is ultra-special because it’s getting the very first glimpse of the eclipse,” the post explains. “Calling it First Landfall, the city is ready for the on-set of solar seekers in areas such as the scenic Roads End State Recreation Site, right along the shore.”
Here’s a map of all the spots on Expedia’s list. But at this point, with a little more than two days until the big event, good luck getting a hotel in many of these spots.
MADRAS. Ore. – More than 1,000 photographers will be documenting Monday’s solar eclipse for an unprecedented 90-minute view of the darkened sun, and Matt Henry will be one of them.
Henry signed up months ago for the Eclipse Megamovie Project, organized by Google and the University of California at Berkeley.
“I was going to take pictures of the eclipse anyway,” Henry, who’s a manufacturing engineer for Lenovo in San Diego, told me.
Today he showed off his computer-controlled system for capturing the eclipse from a spot at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras during Oregon Solarfest. Here’s the video:
Henry’s pictures will be stitched together with hundreds of other images captured by Eclipse Megamovie photographers along the 70-mile-wide, coast-to-coast path of totality.
The result will show standard-sized views of the eclipsed sun and its delicate corona over the course of about 90 minutes, as the moon’s shadow streaks from Oregon to South Carolina.
That timespan is much longer than the couple of minutes during which totality can be seen from any one location along the path.
An initial two- to five-minute version of the Megamovie should be available for viewing online several hours after the eclipse. Longer versions will come later, eventually adding up to the full 90 minutes.
For Henry, this isn’t just an experiment in citizen science. It’s also a family vacation.
To get enough camping space for eight people, Henry reserved three 20-by-20-foot camping spots at the fairgrounds. Two of those spots are for Henry’s family. “I have one spot designated for equipment,” he said.
When the South Carolina city of Greenville welcomes what’s expected to be 100,000 or more eclipse fans, Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta will play a role in making sure things go smoothly, thanks to a high-tech twist.
Kymeta, a startup backed in part by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, is pioneering a flat-panel antenna system to facilitate satellite communications.
In the meantime, Kymeta is anxious to see how its mTenna system can be used by first responders in situations where cellular data networks can become jammed up.
Greenville’s Eclipse Day extravaganza will serve as a test case.
Kymeta is taking its satellite-connected Toyota RAV4 test vehicle on the road to provide field trial mobile communications to the Greenville Police Department.
“We chose to provide this testbed service to Greenville because we recognized the significance of the need here,” Tom Freeman, Kymeta’s senior vice president for land mobile, said in a news release.
“Cellular data coverage is a concern for cities along the path of totality nationwide, but of all the cities on the list, Greenville is expected to have one of the largest number of visitors.”
Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller is glad to be part of the experiment, especially since pictures and videos of Monday’s eclipse are expected to be widely shared to social media networks via mobile devices. All that data traffic is likely to add to the burden on cellular networks.
“Communication is critical to ensuring timely response to incidents and in keeping the public safe,” Miller said. “Having the extra testbed support Kymeta is offering will provide us with an additional means of communication.”
So where’s the best place in the nation to see Monday’s all-American, coast-to-coast eclipse?
According to weather guru Cliff Mass, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington, it’s the area around Salem, Ore.
Oregon’s capital city typically has a cloudy reputation, by virtue of its location on the rainy west side of the Cascades. But for this particular Monday, the outlook is exceptionally sunny.
In a blog post, Mass says nationwide computer modeling for sky conditions shows that “only the section over Oregon is completely clear.”
Oregon’s coastal areas are “potentially problematic,” due to the potential for low stratus clouds. But from the Willamette Valley eastward, Oregonians can look to optimal visibility.
Except for one thing: wildfires.
“For those viewing on the eastern slopes of the Oregon Cascades and in eastern Oregon, a veil of smoke will be present and will undermine clarity to some degree,” Mass said.
The wildfires are particularly fierce in regions around the track of totality, such as the Three Sisters Wilderness. You can see how that affects the skies over Highway 97, north of Bend, in this picture:
So far, the smoke has mostly stayed away from the skies directly over Madras, Ore., which is my base of operations. But I could see huge banks of fire-caused clouds rolling to the north and the south.
What happens if smoke gets in our eyes? Will thousands of people rush to drive toward Salem in the west, or Idaho in the east, adding to what’s already expected to be a traffic nightmare? Stay tuned. …
MADRAS, Ore. – The only electricity at my disposal is what I can mooch from my brother’s RV. I’m sharing the bathroom with hundreds of other campers. And the temperature yo-yos from the high 80s in the afternoon to the mid-40s in the wee hours of the morning.
Welcome to Oregon Solarfest: The reporting conditions may be challenging, but this is the spot to be for Monday’s total solar eclipse.
The county seat for Jefferson County, population 6,729, has the best chance of clear skies for totality, based on historical data. That’s what’s drawing what’s expected to be upwards of 100,000 eclipse-chasers from all over the world to Madras.
Many of those thousands are here at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, or several miles away at the “Solartown” satellite campgrounds. My tent is the one on the right in this picture of tonight’s sunset:
Oregon Solarfest feels a lot like a county fair. But it also feels like a Boy Scout Jamboree, with eclipse-chasers camping out on 20-by-20-foot plots where the county fair midway was earlier this summer.
Unlike a fair or a jamboree, everyone here is basically biding their time for just one moment: two minutes on Monday morning when the sun completely disappears behind the moon. We’re all gaming our options, figuring out the best place to set up on the big day, and hoping we don’t miss the shuttle bus.
Over the next couple of days, I’ll be sharing vignettes from Madras and its environs – and working like a Boy Scout to be prepared for Monday’s two minutes.