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Where and how to view the total solar eclipse as it crosses Idaho in August 2017

Trace the route of the August 2017 solar eclipse

New NASA visualizations that take into account the topography of both the moon and the Earth have created a more accurate eclipse map for the solar eclipse that will pass over Idaho in August.
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New NASA visualizations that take into account the topography of both the moon and the Earth have created a more accurate eclipse map for the solar eclipse that will pass over Idaho in August.

The reservation requests started early at Redfish Lake Lodge near Stanley for the total solar eclipse coming to America on Aug. 21, 2017.

Twelve years early.

Jeff Clegg, the general manager at the lodge, fielded his first inquiry way back in 2005. The lodge is booked solid for the eclipse despite requiring a four-night stay (Aug. 18-21) and increasing prices. The lodge plans to provide educational events as part of the experience.

“That (2005 request) was the first I heard of it,” Clegg said, “and I thought, ‘You’re crazy.’ ... Over the last two or three years, we’ve had quite a few requests building up, and then this summer it spiked. We’re just doing kind of a big party. It’s been fun to plan.”

Eclipse experts say Idahoans who want to experience the rare phenomenon must plan well in advance because of the crowds expected to seek out the best spots. The path of totality — where a total solar eclipse will be visible for more than 2 minutes — passes north of Boise while going through towns such as Weiser, Smiths Ferry, Stanley, Mackay, Rexburg and Driggs/Victor. The center line runs between Idaho 75 and Redfish Lake Lodge, just south of Stanley.

The only major population area within the path is Idaho Falls, which will get about 1 minute, 45 seconds of totality.

Downtown Boise will experience 2 hours, 40 minutes of partial eclipse but the sun won’t be fully covered by the moon at any point.

The total eclipse will be the first in the continental United States since 1979 — when Idaho was one of five states in the path of totality — and the first to cross America from coast to coast since 1918. It’s the only total eclipse that will reach Idaho this century.

“It is by far the most dramatic sight you can see in the sky,” said Michael Zeiler, a New Mexico-based amateur astronomer and professional cartographer who built GreatAmericanEclipse.com. “Even though amateur astronomers will travel all around the world to see total solar eclipses, it really is an event that is for everybody and not just astronomy geeks. It’s like a scene from a science-fiction movie — it’s completely otherworldly — and Idaho is right in the crosshairs.”

Here are some animations showing the path of totality through Idaho for the Aug. 21, 2017, solar eclipse.

The eclipse’s unusual path means that a huge portion of the country is within a day’s drive or less of the path of totality, spreading the eclipse viewers to some degree. However, Idaho appeals to out-of-state and international eclipse chasers because of the fairly reliable clear skies in the summer and the relatively unpopulated areas where the eclipse will be visible. High altitude is considered a plus, too, because there’s less atmosphere to peer through.

Randy Holst, president of the Boise Astronomical Society, has fielded so many questions about the eclipse that he prepared a three-page PDF response with information about the viewing possibilities in Idaho. The BAS doesn’t have the resources to produce any sort of public event, Holst said, and the members aren’t publicizing where they’ll be.

Holst’s inquiries have come from as far away as Ireland.

He worries that the mountain locations are going to be so popular that roads will be jammed.

“In my opinion, if you’re not already (where you want to be for the eclipse) a couple days before it happens, you’re probably going to get stuck in traffic,” Holst said. “... I think the majority of people would be better off going to western Idaho or eastern Idaho into the flat farmland.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Here's a NASA video showing totality during the March 8, 2016, total solar eclipse.

What happens in a total solar eclipse?

The moon passes between Earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s light. The moon’s shadow turns the sky dark, like it’s night. A total eclipse requires alignment of the Earth, sun and moon in a direct line.

During totality, the sun’s corona — the outer atmosphere — is visible with the naked eye. NASA describes the sight as a “pearly white crown surrounding the sun.”

“The total duration of the eclipse will be a little over two hours,” Zeiler said. “During those two hours, first the moon will begin to encroach upon the sun’s disk. That process takes about an hour. And then if you are within the central path of the total eclipse, you will experience in Idaho a little over two minutes where the moon completely blocks the sun and daytime instantly turns into a deep twilight.”

Stars and planets are visible during the eclipse, too.

Idaho’s portion of the total eclipse begins at 11:24 a.m. and ends at 11:36 a.m.

Downtown Boise will be in partial eclipse from 10:10 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

Aug. 21 is a Monday.

What’s the significance of the path of totality?

That is the only place where you’ll see a total solar eclipse. The path for this eclipse is projected at 60-70 miles wide. The closer you are to the center of the path, the longer totality lasts. NASA has an interactive map that allows users to receive site-specific eclipse details, including start times and durations (link to the map in this story at IdahoStatesman.com).

Can an eclipse be viewed safely?

A total solar eclipse can be viewed safely with the naked eye. However, the partial eclipse that happens before and after totality requires special eclipse-viewing glasses (they’re fairly cheap and available online). Sunglasses don’t offer enough protection.

Here's why you need to protect your eyes when viewing a solar eclipse.

What about weather and smoke?

Eclipse watchers already are digging through weather records to determine the most reliably sunny places to view the eclipse. Eclipsophile.com breaks down the weather prospects state by state.

Zeiler plans to travel to Casper, Wyo., with an RV and be prepared to travel to anywhere from Oregon to Nebraska based on weather forecasts.

“All of the serious eclipse chasers are going to be studying the forecast very intently,” said Zeiler, who estimates “a couple thousand” people worldwide chase eclipses. “They’re going to definitely relocate if they need to.”

An X-factor for Idaho is summer smoke from wildfires. That could necessitate flexibility for those who want to see the eclipse here.

“That’s just as bad, if not worse, as having clouds,” Holst said. “There’s no way in the world to predict that.”

Where else will this eclipse be seen?

All of North America will see at least a partial solar eclipse, Zeiler said. States in the path of totality include Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

When is the next solar eclipse in our area?

The next solar eclipse in the continental United States occurs April 8, 2024 — but that one begins in Texas and moves northeast from there. An eclipse in 2044 sweeps through eastern and northern Montana and another in 2045 crosses northern Nevada and Utah.

The next total solar eclipse projected to reach Idaho won’t arrive until 2169.

Here's a discussion NASA hosted about the 2017 solar eclipse.

Star party at Bogus Basin

A star party will be held Saturday at the Bogus Basin Nordic lodge. Solar viewing and nature hikes begin at 5:30 p.m. A drawing for a telescope will be held at 7:30 p.m. A laser-guided constellation tour begins at 8 p.m. Admission is free with the donation of a canned food for the Idaho FoodBank.

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