Solar Eclipse: What To Expect In South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Millions of people are eagerly waiting the solar eclipse that will be taking place in a little more than two weeks. It’s been 99 years since the last solar activity spanned across the nation. But how does a solar eclipse happen? And what can South Dakotans expect to see on Aug. 21?

James Morris has been studying the stars, sun and moon his whole life. He recalls the first time he saw an eclipse back in 1963.

“I was out in the field raking hay on the tractor and it got dark to the point where I had to turn my headlights on,” says Morris. “It’s very eerie. The air cools off. The birds go to roost. The crickets start to chirp, and they think it’s night.”

Fifty-four years later, the former president of the Sioux Empire Astronomy Club is preparing to catch a solar eclipse on film. So how does this happen?

“We’ve got this black piece of string representing the suns rays coming and hitting the earth,” says Morris. To demonstrate, Morris is using a hula-hoop as the moon’s orbit.

“Normally the moon will travel above or below that line as it passes between the earth and the sun,” Morris says. But come Aug. 21, he says the moon’s orbit will intersect this line.

“The moon is going to get in between the sun and the earth and cause an eclipse,” says Morris.

In Sioux Falls, Morris says we’ll start to see the shadow over the corner of the sun at around 11:30 a.m. The darkest point will be at 1 p.m. It will end around 2:30 p.m.

“It won’t get completely dark, but it definitely will get dimmer and darker than normal,” says Morris.

While many will want to go outside and view the solar activity, Morris says there are safety concerns when looking at the sun.

“Even just a fractional second, it will burn your retina and cause damage to the eye that cannot be replaced or healed,” he says.

That’s why viewing requires solar lenses on telescopes.

“You always want to have your solar filter on the very front to filter the sun before it goes into your equipment,” says Morris.

And special glasses are required for spectators.

“You want to put the glasses on, hold them, keep your hands on them the entire time and tilt your head up until you can see the sun,” demonstrates Morris.

Morris says the glasses and lenses only allow a tiny percentage of the sun’s energy to come through.

South Dakota is expected to see 90 percent of the total solar eclipse. Portions of our neighboring states like Nebraska and Iowa are on the path for the total solar eclipse. The next eclipse is expected in 2024, but only a portion of the nation will be able to see it.

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