In the 'path of totality'
Jim Todd is more than a little excited for Oregon's total solar eclipse event next month.
He's been looking forward to it since 1979, when he was a senior in high school in Goldendale, Wash., and a total solar eclipse crossed over much of the Pacific Northwest.
"I've had that date in my mind since then, honestly," said Todd, who is now the director of space science education at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry.
Professionally, Todd and his team at OMSI began planning for the eclipse three years ago as the astronomy community — and then the general public — started buzzing about the rare solar phenomena that happens two to three times per year but is rarely visible in the United States.
The "path of totality" in Oregon will stretch for 62 miles, starting between Lincoln City and Newport on the Oregon coast and stretching southeastward to communities including Salem, Corvallis, Albany, Madras, John Day and Ontario before continuing its path across America toward South Carolina.
It's the first time a total solar eclipse will touch the United States mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918.
During the brief window of totality — between 10:15 a.m. and 10:27 a.m. in Oregon — we'll see what's called the corona, or the crown. "An absolute spectacle," Todd said. "You'll have a glow. The only time you can see that is when the sun is blocked."
People in the path of totality in Oregon will see that glow during just two minutes of total darkness before the eclipse sweeps southeast, traveling almost 3,000 mph and crossing the state in just nine minutes.
In 90 minutes, it will cross the entire country from the west coast to east coast. "It's the length of a movie," Todd said. "I don't recommend anyone go watch a movie during the eclipse. They'll miss the whole thing."
One million people are expected to come to Oregon for the event, because the state is poised to have the best weather and viewing conditions. Over the past two years, hotels, campgrounds and events in the path of totality have largely sold out, with international travelers, astronomy geeks and curiosity seekers driving the traffic.
A solar eclipse viewing party at the Oregon State fairgrounds, which Todd is spearheading for OMSI in Salem, sold out quickly with 8,000 attendees. The best thing to do now? Watch from Portland, where viewers will still see 99-percent darkness.
In Portland, the sky won't go pitch black, but it will drop to what feels like an overcast day, with a small glow of blue sky at the top where the moon's silhouette almost completely covers the sun. Even then, eclipse watchers will still need to wear solar eclipse viewing glasses.
"Never take your glasses off for a partial (eclipse) ever," Todd said. "That 1 percent can still damage your eye."
As if a total solar eclipse isn't enough, viewers may also get a bonus: Venus, Mars and Mercury will also be visible during the event.
"Oregon is not going to have ever seen anything like this before," said Todd, who's been at OMSI for 33 years.
Once viewers recover from this year's eclipse, they can start planning for Oregon's "annular" eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023. That's when a disc of the moon will be smaller than the sun, appearing as a ring of fire in the sky. And as if it couldn't get any more spectacular, the center line will be over Crater Lake.
"It's not totality," Todd said, "but it's still an amazing eclipse."
For more about the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, go to great americaneclipse.com/oregon.