Touted as “The Great American Eclipse,” Monday’s event has created a sensation in the U.S.
It’s the talk of all of those people living in the path of the eclipse’s totality, a roughly 70-mile-wide band across which the moon’s shadow will streak, from Oregon to South Carolina, in a matter of 90 minutes.
It’s all the rage for plenty of others, too, hoping to get into that path for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“If you’re able to find a way into the path of totality, I’d say it would be a good idea to try that,” said Gabel. “Even in Omaha it’s going to be a really thrilling, exciting thing — the sun will be just a small sliver here.
“But if you can get into that 70-mile band of the moon’s umbral shadow, it will be striking to see the sun completely blocked out and the ghostly streams of coronal light emanating from the dark hole where the sun should be,” he said.
What makes seeing a total solar eclipse so rare, Gabel said, amounts to sheer accidents of physics and astronomy.
Total solar eclipses happen every year or two, but are visible for just a few brief moments over a very small region of the earth, often in remote areas or over open ocean where they go almost wholly unobserved.
The last time a total solar eclipse was viewable from any spot in Nebraska was in 1954. The next time a total solar eclipse will be viewable from anywhere in the state will be 2106 and the next time a total solar eclipse will be viewable from Omaha, the year will be 2245.
“The relative distances and sizes of the moon and sun are right in that sweet spot where the sun is completely blocked out for just a few fleeting moments over a small area of the earth,” Gabel said. “With the one coming up, that special place will sweep through Nebraska. Most of us will likely never have the chance to see an event like this again.”
The view of the Aug. 21 eclipse over Nebraska will begin around 11:30 a.m., when the moon will begin crossing between the sun and the earth, taking what appears to be a little bite out of our nearest star.
The moon will gradually occult more of the sun until about 1:03 p.m., when, in the path of totality, the eclipse will last for up to two and a half minutes.
In the path of totality, the darkness should be deep enough to see stars.
Special eclipse-viewing glasses will be needed to view the event. Only in its brief moments of totality can the eclipse be viewed safely without the special glasses.
“There is a very real potential to do permanent damage to your eyesight if you don’t take the proper precautions,” Gabel said.
In Omaha, Gabel said, since the eclipse won’t reach totality but will get to about 98 percent occlusion, anyone looking skyward for the event must keep the special lenses on during the entirety of the eclipse.
Other safe viewing options include creating indirect eclipse observation apparatuses, which can be as simple as looking at the light the eclipse casts on the ground through a hole in a piece of cardboard or through interlaced fingers.