Even In Eugene, Eclipse Will Be A Spectacle Worth Looking Up For

Aug 9, 2017

Excitement is building among scientists and the general public about the upcoming solar eclipse which passes through Oregon Monday August 21st. KLCC's Rachael McDonald speaks with a University of Oregon Astronomer.

Scott Fisher is an Astronomer and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of Physics at the UO.
Credit Rachael McDonald

Scott Fisher is Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Physics at the University of Oregon. As an astronomer he’s excited about seeing the eclipse. He made plans more than a year ago to view the event from outside Madras. The small Central Oregon town in the path of totality is known as the hot spot for the celestial event.
“We wanted to go where we have the highest chance of seeing, no clouds. And that’s Madras, right. It’s 97 percent, again knock on wood, 97 percent chance of cloudless sky. But, I have seen here in the valley, it’s sort of like a 75-80 percent chance. So, again, pretty good. The coast, maybe, not quite so much. I think it’s maybe 50/50.
Fisher says Madras, which has a population of about 7 thousand is expected to swell to 75 thousand during the eclipse weekend. Fisher says for those outside the path of totality, it will still be a spectacle. Eugene will experience 99.4 percent of totality.
“At what we would call peak eclipse, all that’s going to be left is the tiniest little sliver of sun up there. And by the way, that will also produce very interesting shadow effects here in Eugene. For example, if you happen to stand underneath a tree where there’s mottled sunlight, you’ll notice each of the little spots of sunlight takes the shape of the sun.”
Fisher says, for scientists, there’s a lot to learn from the eclipse. 50 different college student groups across the country are launching weather balloons.
“And these weather balloons have high-definition video cameras, things like high-precision GPS measurements and altitude measurements and they measure things like gamma rays and high energy photons that exist up at the sort of 50 or 60 thousand feet where these balloons go to.”
Scientists are also hoping to learn more about the sun’s corona which will be visible during the eclipse’s totality.
Fisher advises people to be prepared with special protective eclipse glasses. They’re necessary to protect the eyes while the sun is still visible behind the moon.
“If you can see a little bit of the disk of the sun, that’s awful bright and we just want folks to be real careful about that so please pick up sort of vetted eyeglasses, sunglasses aren’t going to do it. You need these special solar glasses. I’ve seen them around town now, quite inexpensive, a dollar or 2. So we’d love for you to go and get a pair of them to use.”
Scott Fisher is Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Physics at the UO. He’ll speak about the eclipse Wednesday (8/9) on campus.  The talk is free and open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. at Falling Sky Pizzeria in the Erb Memorial Union.