The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has a group of passionate volunteers that make up the Solar Eclipse Task Force (SETF). The SETF educates civilians about upcoming solar eclipses, including why they’re important, when they’re going to happen, what observers are looking for and how to prepare for them.
They group even partnered with NAFDMA, the international agritourism association, to host an online seminar recently titled “How Eclipses Can Boost Agritourism.”
One of the speakers at the event, Debra Ross, co-chair of the National Eclipse Task Force and chair of Rochester, NY’s Eclipse Task Force, simply explained that a solar eclipse is when “the moon is positioned between the Earth and the sun in such a way that it casts a shadow on the Earth.” However, the definition of a solar eclipse is a little more complicated than that, as there are two different types: an annular solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse.
During an annular solar eclipse, like the one set to occur on Oct. 14, 2023, the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun so it does not grow completely dark. Instead, there is a ring of light around the outer edge of the sun that the moon won’t cover. (During a total solar eclipse, which will occur on April 8, 2024, the sun is completely covered by the moon and totality occurs.)
“Totality” is the expression for the total darkness which only occurs during a total solar eclipse. Although totality only lasts for seconds to minutes, “brightness fades by 100 to 1,000 times in the last minute before totality,” Ross explained. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes from the first “contact” of the moon and the sun to reach totality.
It is important to look at the path of the eclipses on both Oct. 14 and April 8 to see if your area will be in the main line of the astronomical events. The closer to the path of best viewing you are, the longer the eclipse will last. People sometimes travel from all around the U.S. to the center of the line to experience an eclipse, so it’s important to plan accordingly.
If your farm or agri-business is in the line of the eclipse (or even near it), make the occurrence an event. Tens of thousands of visitors attend each area in the path of totality, so set up camping areas and merchandise and produce for people to enjoy during the eclipse – and afterward.
If you have livestock, consider setting up a viewing area so visitors can see how they react to a solar eclipse. Think about inviting a local astronomer to come and talk with viewers about the occurrence. Help attendees commemorate the event by creating something – check out the STEM Activity Clearinghouse at tinyurl.com/39w84njf for some artistic ideas.
In terms of planning for your eclipse viewing party, or even an after celebration, there are some safety tips you must know for the event. As Rick Fienberg, chair of AAS’s Eye Safety Working Group and another member of the SETF, stated, “Regular sunglasses are at least 1,000 times too weak to look at the sun.” Instead, special eclipse sunglasses must be worn during the entire eclipse except during totality. During totality, you can’t see anything unless you take off the special sunglasses. At totality, the sun is “about as bright as a full moon and just as safe to look at.”
Visit eclipsewise.com to view an interactive map to see the overall visibility of the eclipse for your planning purposes.
by Kelsi Devolve