Hordes of people are expected to flock to Idaho come August, when a solar eclipse will cast the moon’s shadow across the state for more than two minutes.
We’ve known for a while that parts of Idaho will be in the “path of totality” — where viewers will be able to see the moon completely cover the sun. Last week, NASA published its most detailed information yet on where the moon’s projected shadow will glide across our state Aug. 21.
“Traditionally, eclipse calculations assume that all observers are at sea level and that the moon is a smooth sphere that is perfectly symmetrical around its center of mass,” the NASA post said. “The calculations do not take into account different elevations on Earth and the moon’s cratered, uneven surface.”
So, NASA visualizer Ernie Wright created a data set that takes into account the moon’s mountains, valleys and other topographical features that, NASA said, can affect the eclipse shadow by several seconds.
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In addition, Wright took into account the Earth’s topography. Many eclipse watchers plan to flock to Idaho because of its high altitude, which means less atmosphere to view through.
“The resulting visualizations show something never seen before: the true, time-varying shape of the moon’s shadow, with the effects of both an accurate lunar limb and the Earth’s terrain,” NASA said.
The eclipse’s path of totality is still expected to pass over Idaho mountain towns like Cascade, Garden Valley and Arco. It will also pass over Idaho Falls on the southeast side of the state. But Wright said he thinks the new NASA data will change the future of eclipse mapping — though, in Idaho, we won’t see another total solar eclipse this century.
Find two other videos that detail the eclipse’s path of totality here.