Monday, May 25, 2009

How to See the Eclipse of 2017

The basic premise is that an eclipse is visible from a several miles wide strip along the surface of the earth. Here is a diagram from NASA of the path of the 2017 eclipse.

The first thing you want in picking a place to see an eclipse is a place where you can see it at all. It is not obvious to Californians but many places have lots of cloud cover which keep one from seeing the sun much. This means one wants if possible to find a part of the path that passes over sunny dry places which have little cloud cover.

Given a choice of sunny dry places to choose among, one ought to chose a beautiful uncrowded place, or a beautiful semi-crowded one if one is social and wants to share. I have had good experiences with both.

As is the custom with our country, we have an embarrassment of riches. As you can see from the map, the eclipse crosses the Coast Range shortly after reaching Oregon. From there to eastern Wyoming it is over the Great Basin, all of which is either arid or semi-arid and thus relatively cloudless.

So you are then down to deciding on beauty and crowdedness. Zooming in shows that the eclipse passes right over Grand Teton National Park. Much of that park is surpassingly beautiful.

A National Park will certainly give you the opportunity to choose any desired degree of crowdedness, from masses cheering (there will be cheering, there always is) near the visitor center to a remote mountainside shared only with a circling hawk or a marmot. It is easy to say, "Of course I will chose the remote mountainside", but don't be so quick.

Being part of a growing crowd frenzy in which nobody is angry and nobody gets lynched, has a lot to be said for it. It's fun. I've done both and both are great. If you have a tot, by 2017 that offsprung is going to be perilously close to teenagery. Teenagers, particularly girls, are intensely social little herd animals, so the teen-tot might get more out of the experience around at least some other people, particularly other young people. A middle place between mobs around the visitor center and solitude might be a campground with a vista.

If you choose summer camping in Grand Teton, you would have to reserve long in advance in any case, and doubly so for the eclipse. You might want to call them to find out how far in advance they take reservations.

I have focussed on Grand Teton only because it is an officially designated Beautiful Place. The eclipse path appears to be over a hundred miles wide and 2500-3000 miles long. All you have to do is get within that path under a clear sky and look up. The rest is details.

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