Northern Lights Possible Tonight And Thursday / Last-Minute Eclipse Checklist

We may see an aurora like this tonight or tomorrow night. Credit: Bob King

So many of us have the eclipse on our minds, but nature has many cards. Tonight (Aug. 16) and tomorrow, night it’s expected to deal the aurora card with minor (G1) geomagnetic storms forecast. A high-speed flow of particles from a coronal hole slamming into a slower stream compresses the material and creates a shock wave that could rattle Earth’s magnetic field and spawn auroras.

Astronomers call the event a CIR or Corotating Interaction Regions. Space weather experts are predicting the best activity will be soon after dark both evenings. Look low in the north for a glow or pale green arc. With the moon gone, I suspect skywatchers in the northern states will see some aurora as long as it’s not raining!

Since 1970, I’ve seen three of five total solar eclipses I traveled to. From left: July 11, 1991 in La Paz, Baja, Mexico; Feb. 26, 1979 on Lake Winnipeg and Feb. 26, 1998 in Aruba. Credits: Bob King (left, center) and Greg Furtman

Below, I’ve listed a few things you shouldn’t forget if you’re out in the country or parked along a road for Monday’s total solar eclipse. If you’d like to add something to the list, just e-mail me at: rking@duluthnews.com and I’ll tack it on. Thanks!

  • An umbrella or patio-style umbrella. If it’s clear, you’ll probably be out in the sunshine for up to 3 hours. An umbrella will provide comforting shade.
  • Sun-block. So you don’t get roasted. The sun will be high overhead from many locations, when its rays are most intense.
  • A hat. Don’t be like the Game of Thrones characters and never wear a hat! A broad brim will further protect you from the sun.
  • Water and a snack
  • Fully-charged mobile phone to use your eclipse apps and to photograph or video the total eclipse
  • Binoculars. Hands down, the best and easiest to use instrument for viewing the sun’s corona
  • Portable toilet. No kidding. If no toilet is available and you have to “go,” bring a pickle pail with a lid and line the bucket with a heavy trash bag. Pour some bleach into the bag. I’ve used this on camping trips, and it works great. Also bring toilet paper and one of those cheap rain ponchos (for privacy).
  • Chairs. Much better than standing. Folding reclining chairs are best because they save your neck. Feeling decadent? Bring a pillow, too!
  • Sunglasses. Save on eyestrain and glare.
  • Tripod and camera. Don’t forget it if you’re doing more than mobile phone photography. Make sure batteries are charged.
  • Approved eclipse glasses /#14 welder’s glass. Bring along a colander or punch holes in a paper plate with a thick pin, toothpick or sharpened pencil tip. You can use either to project the sun’s image on the ground and take pictures of that with your phone.
  • Duct tape. Ya’ never know …
  • Download eclipse maps ahead of time. If you’re using Google maps on your phone, be aware of potentially limited cell coverage or overloaded systems, and download the maps into your phone ahead of time so you don’t need a system connection and can use the maps offline. (suggestion from reader Tony Mueller — thanks, Tony!)
  • Bug dope, a simple first aid kit for cuts, sunburn, headache, etc. A pocket knife, twice as much water as you think you need, hand wipes or hand gel. And most important, be sure someone knows where you are headed. (from reader Linda Bergum — thank you!)
  • Keep your eyes on the eclipse. Spend as much time as you can just looking at the totally eclipsed sun, sky and landscape during totality. The next U.S. eclipse is 7 years down the road.

2 Responses

  1. A couple other things I’ve seen mentioned: If you’re using Google maps on your phone, be aware of potentially limited cell coverage or overloaded systems, and download the maps into your phone ahead of time so you don’t need a system connection and can use the maps offline.

    Another suggestion was to use your phone’s camera to record video the minutes before and after totality. You can capture the approaching shadow, but more interesting would be other people’s reactions. It’s only a few minutes long so it won’t take a lot of space.

    Thanks for all the updates as the big date approaches. I’ll be in Lincoln/Beatrice and hope to see Bill Nye there!

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