Local astronomer: Eclipse to be ‘nature’s grandest spectacle’

Local members from the Heart of the Valley Astronomers Club made themselves available at a series of talks in Linn County earlier this month to explain to residents what to expect for the upcoming total eclipse.

Lebanon resident and club member Mike Kristosik spoke to a full room at the Lebanon Public Library Aug. 8.

“This is the chance of a lifetime to see something that’s – as another club member describes it – ‘nature’s grandest spectacle’,” Kristosik said.

It’s also special, he added, because this is the first time since 1918 that a total eclipse will go across the entire lower 48 states.

Though Kristosik was in Corvallis during the 1979 total eclipse that ran through Portland, what he saw wasn’t a true total eclipse; the sun was only 99.93 percent covered from his vantage point, he said.

A slide displays the four types of solar eclipses.

“It got kind of dark, but it still wasn’t total,” he said.

He’s prepared this year for his first total eclipse, and he’s doing it from his backyard in Lebanon. The next total eclipse to hit the U.S. will be in 2024, and Kristosik plans to travel to Texas to see that one.

“It’s an awesome spectacle. It’s kind of rare, in the sense that if you don’t go chasing it you might not see another one in your lifetime,” he said.

Kristosik recommends residents try staying at home for the eclipse to avoid traffic. A projected one million visitors are expected to enter Oregon for the eclipse, and as many as 30,000 aircraft, Kristosik noted. During the actual total eclipse on August 21, he expects cars might stop on the road to watch. He says an experienced club member calls this moment “an attractive nuisance.”

Totality will reach Lebanon at 10:17 a.m. at a southeast, 30-degree angle, he said. Any open, grassy area will be good for viewing. Residents can practice their proposed viewing location by checking to see whether trees will block their view during that time of day.

Kristosik stressed that residents should wear eclipse glasses when looking at the sun during the partial eclipse, but during the 1.5 minutes of totality they may take them off. Eclipse glasses do not need to be worn if you’re not looking at the sun.

Totality is the only time it is safe to look at the sun without optical protection, he said. Make sure eclipse glasses have the ISO certified safety stamp, or use Baader Astro-Solar aluminized polyester or welders #14.

Do not use sunglasses of any kind (even cross polarizers), aluminized mylar from helium balloons, or computer disks.

These guidelines also apply for any viewing device such as binoculars, telescopes or cameras.

For amateur photographers, Kristosik believes residents should rather enjoy the eclipse than try to photograph it.

“Experience the eclipse. Don’t worry about recording it,” he said.

DSLR cameras on a tripod will be the best tool for recording an eclipse, he said. Protect the camera lens/sensor with the approved ISO certified filter or film during partial eclipse, but remove the filter during total eclipse.

“I must warn you. Once you see this eclipse, you may be consumed with a passion for ‘where’s the next one; I’m going to be there’,” he said.