On the day of August 21st, 2017, Denver experienced the solar eclipse. For a brief moment, the day turned into night. As the street lights turned on in the middle of the day, animals, ranging from big to small, went into their nighttime routines and stars became visible. According to Brian Carlstrom, a deputy associate director of the National Park Service Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, when asked about the solar eclipse before it happened, the “hair on the back of your neck is going to stand up, and you are going to feel different things as the eclipse reaches totality. It’s been described as peaceful, spiritual, exhilarating, shocking.” According to The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, also known as NASA, a total solar eclipse where you live only happens about once in 375 years. Therefore, unless modern medicine advances and humans evolve, an average human might not be able to witness the next total solar eclipse in their area.
So, in the year of 2017, Denver was able to witness a total solar eclipse. However, they won’t be able to witness another one until August 12, 2045! The people of Colorado would need to wait 28 years to witness another total solar eclipse for the next total eclipse for North America, in the year of 2024, will miss the state of Colorado. Be patient! The northern edge of the path of totality will go through I-70 in Denver and the prime viewing sports for the 2045 total eclipse would be Colorado Springs as well as Grand Junction— this will be worth the wait! To get more updates about the 2024 or 2045 total eclipse, you can visit the NASA website or any social media platform they have.
Total Solar Eclipse
With that being said, let us focus on the recent total solar eclipse that happened in Denver. There were many great locations and parties that people traveled to just to see the solar eclipse. One of these great locations included the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. All activities were free with general admission and there were a limited number of glasses, which are used to safely watch the eclipse, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Furthermore, there was also a solar eclipse party at the Blue Moon RiNo where viewing glasses, sweet food, and drink specials were given out in addition to a free adult beverage for every entree ordered. Many described the experience as “amazing”, “breathtaking”, and “spectacular.”
An eclipse happens when light from the sun is blocked by the moon or the earth. The umbra is the darkest area where all the light is blocked while the penumbra is the lighter shadow where only part of the light is blocked. A solar eclipse is when the light of the sun is blocked by the moon; the moon gets in the middle of the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow over the earth. This is only able to occur during one of the earth’s moon phase, the new moon phase. During this phase, the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth and its shadows fall upon the surface of the Earth.
The alignment of the Sun, the Earth, as well as the Moon, produces solar eclipses, which can either be, solar, partial, or annular. Usually, solar eclipses happen around once or twice a year. Total solar eclipses are when the moon covers the whole sun and all light that the sun is emitting is blocked from reaching the specific area of the surface of the earth—this lasts for a few minutes. During a total solar eclipse, the moon casts its umbra upon the surface of the Earth; those who are lucky enough to be positioned in the direct path of the umbra will witness the sun’s disk diminish into a crescent as the dark shadow of the moon rushes towards them across the landscape.
For a brief moment, the sun is completely covered and the area affected experiences total darkness. The witnesses are able to see, through specially made instruments, the beautiful corona — this is the outer portion of the sun’s atmosphere that extends to the heliopause— of the sun. This may last somewhere from five to seven minutes.
How is the moon able to cover the sunlight although the sun is way larger in size? This is when the wonders of astronomy come in. The sun, being 864,000 miles in diameter, is about 400 times bigger than the moon, which only has a diameter of 2,160 miles. However, the moon is also coincidentally 400 closer to Earth compared to the sun— the ratio has variations for both orbits are elliptical. As a result of this, when the orbital planes intersect and the distances perfectly align, the new moon appears to completely block out the disk of the sun. On an average, there are about one total solar eclipse that happens somewhere on the surface of the earth every 18 or so months. Therefore, on August 21, 2017, the city of Denver was lucky enough to have been able to witness a total solar eclipse.
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