In just under a month, we’re due to see the first total eclipse of the sun visible from the continental United States since the 1970’s and those (in 1970 and 1979) were each only visible in a small sliver of the country. The eclipse which will take place August 21 will be visible across 14 states including much of the Midwest.
While the eclipse won’t quite reach totality in Topeka, it will still be an impressive sight with noticeable darkening of the sky and the chance to see the moon block most of our view of the sun according to Dr. Brian C. Thomas, Washburn University professor of physics and astronomy.
“The path of totality is actually pretty narrow – only about 70 miles wide,” according to Thomas. “Outside of that path, a sliver of the sun will still be visible as the moon passes between the earth and the sun.”
However, Thomas warned, that sliver of sun can do major damage to your eyes and possibly even cameras without proper protection.
“There won’t be as much visible light but there is still plenty of radiation hitting the earth – enough to seriously damage your vision without proper protection,” he said.
That’s one of the reasons Washburn University is hosting a viewing party for the eclipse at Yager Stadium in the heart of the campus. The university will be handing out free viewing glasses and plans to show network coverage of the total eclipse on the stadium’s JumboTron according to Dr. Laura Stephenson, dean of the college of arts and sciences.
“We know not everyone will be able to travel up to the path of totality but we’re all going to be interested in looking at the eclipse,” she said. “We just want to make sure people are doing it safely.”
The university will have six thousand special viewing glasses on hand as you enter the stadium – glasses that meet the NASA guidelines for safe viewing. Those guidelines include:
- Glasses or handheld viewers should have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
- The manufacturer’s name and address should be printed somewhere on the product
- They should not be older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses
NASA also warns those who want to view the eclipse not to use homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses -- not even very dark ones -- because they are not safe for looking directly at the sun.
Since the eclipse is happening near lunch time, the university’s food vendor will have food available for sale during the event. Visitors to the campus can park in any non-restricted lot – or even better – use Topeka Metro or the MetroBikes to come to Washburn. Washburn is one of the hubs for Topeka MetroBikes and is serviced by Topeka Metro Routes 7, 17 and 21.
If cloud cover interferes with viewing, the event will be moved inside the Memorial Union to watch PBS network coverage provided by KTWU.