Area stargazers will get chance to view eclipse in 2017


By John L. Braese
The Malheur Enterprise

In just over a year, portions of Malheur County could see visitors from around the world gazing skyward as a solar eclipse occurs over the United States for the first time in nearly three decades.

According to Dave Clark of NationalEclipse.com, this will be the first total solar eclipse seen in the U.S. in 26 years and the first seen in the contiguous U.S. in 38 years. It will also be the first total eclipse to travel across the U.S. from coast-to-coast since 1918 and the first total eclipse seen only in the U.S. since the nation’s founding in 1776.

For Oregon and Malheur County, August 21, 2017, will mark the first eclipse of the century.

Clark puts it into perspective:

“A total solar eclipse itself isn’t particularly rare – one occurs somewhere on Earth about once every 18 months – but since the Moon’s shadow traces such a narrow path on Earth, most people have never seen one,” he said. “It’s been calculated that, on average, a total solar eclipse can be seen from the same place only once every 375 years.”

While still a year away, the eclipse news is creating a stir among fans of these astronomical events. Many communities in the direct path report their hotels and motels are booking up.

In nearby Grant County, Chamber of Commerce and county organizers are lining up extra rooms for visitors, as the motels and bed-and-breakfasts are already full.

Experts say the eastern reaches of the state will draw visitors because of the generally clear skies and good weather.

“The Snake River Plain in eastern Oregon should be a great place to see the eclipse due to a good possibility of favorable weather in August,” said Clark. “Vale is located near the southern limit of the eclipse path, where totality will only last for about 54 seconds, but residents can drive northwest on Route 26 to get closer to the centerline where the maximum duration of totality in this part of the country will be about 2 minutes and 9 seconds.”

The eclipse will be visible across the state with the centerline covering a distance of 337.8 miles. The centerline provides the optimum viewing of the event.

The eclipse blackout will begin for Oregon in the Newport area, starting at 10:15 a.m.

That community will experience complete darkness for 1 minute and 50 seconds.

Just after 10:17 a.m., the state capitol in Salem will drop into the shadow for a period of one minute, 54 seconds.

Making its way across central and eastern Oregon, the eclipse shadow will darken Madras, Warm Springs, Mitchell, and Prairie City.

For local viewers, Ontario will experience 1 minute and 23 seconds of totality beginning at 11:25 a.m.

If viewers want a little longer time in the dark, a short drive up Interstate 84 towards the rest area north of Huntington will up the darkness to 1 minute, 45 seconds.

For those looking to take a trip or contact relatives about the event, the eclipse will leave Oregon and make its way through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In all, the shadow will be in the United States for a total of one hour, 33 minutes and 16.8 seconds.

If the 2017 eclipse does not fit your schedule, be forewarned.

Oregon will not feel the shadow of another eclipse for another 40-plus years.

The closest chance to witness the phenomena will be in 2045 and a trip to Salt Lake will be needed.