Total Eclipse 2017


    I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks.  Yes, I am a procrastinator. Is that a bad thing? I haven’t really had time to think about it, but if I did I’d tell you that there are some occasions when it can really ruin your plans. Take, for example, the solar eclipse happening next year. I understand, we’re not even four full months into 2016 and the day of the eclipse is August 21, 2017 so what’s wrong with me that I’m even allowing myself to start thinking about an event over sixteen months away?
    It’s my wife’s fault. While traipsing about the planetarium on one of my son’s frequent field trips she saw a poster about a camping trip to go see the eclipse. While they happen on occasion, this one is particularly meaningful as its path cuts directly through the center of the United States. It’s also a total solar eclipse!
    Just to gain some perspective, total solar eclipses are not as much of a rarity as some might think. According to a nifty article on space.com written by Joe Rao, a total eclipse occurs about every eighteen months on average. It seems like that would put the odds in your favor to experience a few in your lifetime which is entirely possible if you’re planning to spend a lot of time and money-making travel arrangements to go specifically to the (sometimes extremely remote) location where the eclipse can be seen from. For someone like me, this requires far too much dedication and planning.
    With that being the case I need to take advantage of every opportunity I can to go after the low hanging fruit. Next year is a beauty, as the path starts in Oregon and cuts a south-east swath across the country, ending down in South Carolina:
     Once we decided that this was something that we were going to do, we moved on to the more important logistics of the trip, including location and lodging. Casper Wyoming looks like it’s going to be a fantastic place to view the eclipse, and it’s close to us geographically. My wife immediately started calling hotels in the area to secure a room for the few days that we’ll be out there. Everywhere that she called either told her that they were booked or they were going to charge exorbitant “event pricing” fees of something like $700 per night with a three night minimum requirement. And to think, it used to actually require a highway to partake in highway robbery.
     The best part about my wife is that while I was passed out on the floor from the shock, she continued to contact hotels with hope that somewhere there was a ray of common sense and reason that still existed. About three calls later she spoke with someone who asked, “Oh, are you with the convention?” While we weren’t, she asked for details. It seems that there’s a group of astronomers that get together to participate in AstroCon. They’re holding their annual convention in Casper, so they’ve made arrangements with a group of local hotels to offer rooms at a rate of just $99 per night as long as you’re registered for the convention (various rates, discounts for purchasing two adult registrations together, for either two or four days of the con, kids rates are either $15 or $20 for two or four days, respectively). Rooms are still rare, but they’re in the process of verifying that the folks who reserve rooms are also registered for the convention or else they cancel the room reservations to free them up for attendees. Not only is this substantially cheaper than just getting a room, but we also get the added benefit of the convention events as well which include several speakers, field trips to the local museums and the planetarium, and even a Star-B-Que! (Disclaimer: some events require separate admission and are NOT included with the general convention registration.)
     While I haven’t had a chance to look into it, there may be different events at different locations along the path of the eclipse. In any case, if you plan to participate, I’d recommend getting started as soon as possible as hotel rooms and camping spots will be selling out fast. I’d also suggest that you pick up some way to view the eclipse, like specialized glasses or a viewing filter because I’m sure they’ll get more expensive and scarce the closer we get to the event. While it’s ok to look directly at the eclipse at the moment of totality, you’ll damage your eyes before or after that without some eye protection.
     Has anyone heard of any events or have any tips that they’d like to share? Leave some comments below! Also, feel free to ask any questions you might have and I’ll see if I can’t find some answers for you.
Drew Michaels