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2017 Solar Eclipse

August 3, 2017
Emmetsburg News

by Miriam Patton, Palo Alto County Naturalist

The solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st has been well-publicized, and people are encouraged to take in this unique sight. A 70 mile wide path for a total eclipse will pass from Oregon to South Carolina. Here in Northwest Iowa, we are not in the "path of totality," so we will see a partial eclipse. More than 90% of the sun will be covered by the moon. The best viewing time for us will be between 11:30 am and 1:15 pm.

Some people are traveling to see the total eclipse, the nearest sites being along the path from Lincoln, Nebraska to Jefferson, Missouri.

What is a solar eclipse? This occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun during the day and blocks out the light reaching us. It may seem strange that the much smaller moon can block out the light from such a large object as the sun, but it all has to do with distance. The sun is 92.96 million miles from the Earth, while the moon is only 238,900 miles away. The last time there was a total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States was in 1979, and there will not be another chance to see one until 2024.

Everyone looking at the sun must use protective eye wear, or project the image through a pin hole onto a paper. There are several web sites that will offer real time viewing for those of us outside the total eclipse path. Visit or

Palo Alto and Clay County Conservation Boards are offering a Solar Eclipse Viewing program. Join us on Monday, August 21 beginning at 11:00 am. We will meet on the south side of the N 18 bridge, on the west side of Lost Island Lake. Prime viewing will be from 11:30 am-1:15 pm. Bring along a picnic lunch and a lawn chair, and learn about our solar system. We have the special viewing glasses. This event is free of charge and appropriate for all ages.



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