Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Can I rent out RV camping spots on my property during the Total Solar Eclipse?

A: While some counties and cities in Idaho may allow property owners to rent out spaces on their property for RV’s and trailers during the Total Solar Eclipse weekend, this is not permitted in the City of Idaho Falls, unless the property has been zoned for such use. City Code 10-3-30 Comprehensive Zoning. When planning for events and lodging during the eclipse, we encourage the public to first check with the corresponding city or county to ensure they are in compliance with code and/or receive any necessary permits. The City of Idaho Falls has opened three city parks for overnight camping to accommodate additional guests to our area during the Total Solar Eclipse: Noise Park at Idaho Falls Raceway, South Tourist Park and Sandy Downs. Click HERE for additional information or call Idaho Falls Parks & Recreation at (208) 612-8480.

(O) Trailers, Mobile Home Manufactured Housing. No mobile home or travel trailer shall be occupied in Idaho Falls, except when located in an approved mobile home court, travel trailer court, RMH Zone, or when used as a caretaker’s dwelling incidental to the use of a lot for commercial or industrial purposes, or when used as a temporary structure on a lot. The Council may grant a conditional use permit to permit a mobile home or manufactured home to be temporarily occupied and used for any use permitted by the Zone in which it is located until a permanent structure can be constructed on the premises. Such temporary occupation shall not be granted or extended for a period greater than one (1) year.

Q: What is a total solar eclipse?

A: A solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets between Earth and the sun, and the moon casts a shadow over Earth. During any one eclipse, totality (the moon completely obscuring the sun rather than just a portion of it) occurs only in a narrow track on the surface of Earth. The darkest point of the eclipse is almost as dark as night.

Q: How long will the eclipse last?

A: The total eclipse will last about 1 minute and 48 seconds in Idaho Falls. The partial phases leading up to and away from the total eclipse will last much longer.

Q: Will you be able to see the total solar eclipse from everywhere in the United States?

A: You cannot see the total eclipse from everywhere in the United States. In order to see the total eclipse, you must be within the approximately 70 mile band of totality (you can easily find maps online plotting this course). You will be able to see a partial eclipse from most places in the United States.

Q: When was the last total solar eclipse? When is the next one?

A: The total solar eclipse of June 8, 1918 crossed the United States from Washington State to Florida. This path is roughly similar to the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse and was the last time totality crossed the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Other total solar eclipses have “touched” the continental US in smaller areas, the last being in 1979. The next total solar eclipse that will cross the US will not be visible in Idaho. Instead, it will sweep from Texas through Maine on April 8, 2024.

Q: How can we predict when total eclipses will happen?

A: The earth moves in a predictable pattern around the sun and the moon moves in a predictable pattern around the earth. The moon also has predictable “phases” that run in a cycle. Using this evidence, astronomers can very accurately determine when the orbits of the earth and moon will line up with the sun during the new moon phase.

Q: Isn’t the moon a lot smaller than the sun? How can it totally obscure the sun’s light?

A: Yes! The moon is a lot smaller than the sun. It is approximately 400 times smaller, but the sun also lies roughly 400 times farther away. This means that both celestial bodies appear to be the same size.

Q: Will there be a temperature drop during the total eclipse?

A: Yes! The temperature will drop to approximately that of common nighttime temperatures during the eclipse.

Q: Why don’t solar and lunar eclipses happen more frequently?

A: A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon enters the Earth’s shadow. A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s shadow falls on the Earth. They do not happen every month because the Earth’s orbit around the sun is not in the same plane as the Moon’s orbit around the Earth.

Q: Will there be any effects on human behavior?

A: Because we know exactly when the eclipse will take place, people can plan to take appropriate safety measures that will be necessary to go about their normal activities during the eclipse (driving, going to work, etc.) and so should be able to avoid behavioral changes. However, we do see some interesting behavioral changes in animals because many depend on a day/night cycle. You may see birds stop singing, crickets start chirping, and even mosquitoes coming out to feed. Additionally, scientists have determined that bees have a marked change in behavior (possibly due to flowers closing up) and squirrels also show an increase in activity.

Q: Is it safe to look at the sun during the eclipse?

A: The ONLY time it is safe to look at the sun during the eclipse is in the time of totality. Leading up to totality and following totality, you will need to use appropriate protection and techniques to avoid a loss of visual function which may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the damage. The best protection is a pair of special solar eclipse glasses (available at the Museum of Idaho) that are made out of aluminized mylar specifically for this event. Be sure to take the glasses off ONLY during totality for best viewing. You can also use number 14 welder’s glass. Unsafe filters include all color film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, photographic negatives with images on them (x-rays and snapshots), smoked glass, sunglasses (single or multiple pairs), photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Most of these transmit high levels of invisible infrared radiation which can cause a thermal retinal burn (see Figure 24). The fact that the Sun appears dim, or that you feel no discomfort when looking at the Sun through the filter, is no guarantee that your eyes are safe.

Q: How can you view the eclipse without solar eclipse glasses?

A: You can find instructions for making a pinhole projector online which will allow you to watch the partial phases of the eclipse by staring at projected light on the ground rather than directly at the sun. Remember, it is okay to look at the eclipse with the naked eye ONLY when it is in its totality phase.

Q: Where is the best place to see the eclipse?

A: In general, you will want to find a place where you can clearly see the sky without any obstructions like trees or buildings. Idaho Falls has many places that will meet these criteria in town, but you may find yourself wanting to view the eclipse from outside of the city limits. Make sure not to go too far, or you won’t be able to see totality!

Q: Can I photograph the eclipse?

A: Photographing the eclipse will be trickier than it sounds. You will need to take special precautions in order to avoid damaging your equipment and your eyes. We recommend following this link for further details:

Q: Can I look at the eclipse through a telescope or binoculars?

A: You can make a sun projector using binoculars ( ) and there are special lenses you can use to view the eclipse through a telescope. If you want to view the eclipse through a telescope and you don’t have your own, attend some of the educational events at the Museum of Idaho.



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