Solar Eclipse Watch

How to make the most of the biggest astronomical event of the century


As the beginning of the Pony Express and Jesse James’ place of death, St. Joseph, Missouri, is rich in history. It’ll go down in history again on Aug. 21, just after 1 p.m., as one of the best locations on Earth to view the total solar eclipse.

   The first total solar eclipse in 38 years is expected to be the most viewed ever. The moon will be directly in front of the sun to create a dark shadow, which passes over 14 states, including Kansas and Missouri. St. Joseph is the third-best city for watching the total eclipse — viewers will see 2 minutes and 38.6 seconds of it, only 1.6 seconds short of the maximum possible time.

   Some St. Joseph hotels sold out for eclipse weekend more than two years in advance, but try calling individual hotels or looking for campsites if you plan to head north for the event. Although the eclipse is Monday afternoon, eclipse-related events start as early as Friday.

   Whether you’re teaching your children or you’re a lifelong learner yourself, you can find many ways to learn about astronomy before the eclipse. Experience historical astronomy with living history events at the Pony Express National Museum throughout the weekend, or explore the St. Joseph Museum exhibit on astronomer Richard Anthony Proctor and his student Luella Owen, both 1800s St. Joseph residents. Head to Missouri Western State University on Sunday for a talk with four astronomy experts, including meteorologist Bryan Busby of KMBC-TV. Check out the eclipse show at MWSU’s Bushnell Planetarium throughout the weekend, too.

   The fun doesn’t stop there. Paint wine glasses Friday night, listen to live music Saturday night or try the special eclipse-themed wine at Tipple Hill Winery & Vineyards a few miles east of St. Joseph. To stay in the city, spend the weekend at Trails West Festival in Civic Center Park, where you can experience local art, music and food before watching the eclipse on the festival’s last day. You can also stop by Coleman Hawkins Park at Felix Street Square for live performances and food during a Monday afternoon viewing event.

   The total eclipse might not start until mid-afternoon, but get to your viewing location early to see the partial eclipse beginning at 11:40 a.m. The total eclipse starts at1:06:27 and lasts for 2 minutes, 38 seconds. The partial eclipse continues through 2:34 p.m. City-approved viewing locations include the Rosecrans Memorial Airport, East Hills Shopping Center, Trails West Festival and Remington Nature Center. The Rosecrans Airport event, expected to draw more than 100,000 people, features commentary by Astronomy Magazine senior editor Michael Bakich and will have filtered telescopes available for use. (Regardless of where you are, be sure to use eclipse glasses or a solar filter while looking to the sky to prevent damage to your vision.

   The next total solar eclipse won't occur until 2205, so consider this the opportunity of a lifetime. Take Monday off work now, and start making plans to travel to St. Joseph for the weekend or even just the day to experience history as it happens.

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