The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017: What, When, How?
Just yesterday at my local supermarket checkout line, I was innocently asked why I needed to pick up a pair of solar eclipse glasses. "Um, because I could go blind," I responded. "You should get a pair, too."
You see, I happen to live on the South Carolina coast, which is right on the path of totality and the last stop of the Great American Eclipse of 2017 (it's unofficial nickname). Many people are getting excited for this special event, and it's clear that some of you have pertinent questions. I'm here to help.
What's happening exactly?
On Monday, Aug. 21, the U.S. will be treated to a celestial spectacle. Those lucky enough to be on the "path of totality"—a 70-mile wide stretch that extends from Oregon to South Carolina—will get to see the sun's disk completely obscured by the moon (weather permitting, of course).
Observers will also get the rare opportunity to look directly at the solar corona, the radiant, outermost part of the sun's atmosphere. NASA says this is the first total eclipse to cross from coast-to-coast since 1918.
The path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. NASA
Does this mean it go dark?
If you are in an area with a high percentage of obscuration, yes, you will be in near darkness. But it only lasts a few minutes. Those not near the path of totality will see sunlight coming through.
Where and when will it happen?
Lincoln Beach, Oregon gets to see the eclipse begin around 9:05 a.m. PDT. It then crosses through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North and South Carolina. It ends near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT.
Check out this chart for exact details:
But I don't live on the path of totality. Can I still see it?
Very likely! Even if you're not on the path of totality, anyone living in North America can see at least a partial solar eclipse, where it will look like the moon took a chunk out of the sun. If you don't live in the U.S., the northern parts of South America and areas of Europe and Africa will also see a partial eclipse.
Do I really need solar eclipse glasses?
Yes. You could severely damage your eyes if you look directly at the sun. Regular sunglasses, binoculars and camera lenses will not do. You need a pair certified by the ISO 12312-2 international standard that have a special-purpose safe solar filter that blocks solar UV and infrared radiation. Due to reports of counterfeit glasses flooding the market, you'll want check on this Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page if your viewers comply.
Can I watch the eclipse if I don't have special glasses?
You can remove your glasses or look at the sun with the naked eye only when the sun is totally blocked by the moon.
Don't be tempted to look during any other point—even a tiny sliver of the crescent sun can burn your eyeballs. As Ralph Chou, professor emeritus at the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told Space.com, "I have seen instances where the patient has eventually shown up with crescents burned into the back of the eye, and you can almost tell exactly when they looked."
If you can't get ahold of a pair of eclipse glasses, you can create simple pinhole projectors, a fun project for kids and adults alike. Also NASA will host a live stream which will play on NASA TV, YouTube and other TV stations.
Will traffic be bad?
It's likely. About 220 million Americans are within an hour's drive to states in the path of totality. Some cities are preparing for Superbowl-like conditions with expected congestion and travel delays.
Can I bring my dog to watch the eclipse?
Sure. Your dog, and your cat for that matter, instinctively know not to look directly at the sun and will probably ignore the event, animal experts say.
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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