Preparing for the Great American Eclipse at Basalt library | PostIndependent.com
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

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Preparing for the Great American Eclipse at Basalt library

On Aug. 21, the day of the total solar eclipse across some parts of the United States, Bryan White plans to seclude himself as far away as possible from mankind in the rugged mountains of Wyoming.

But up until that time, the Glenwood Springs man will enthusiastically share his celestial knowledge and get people fired up for the opportunity of the century.

"I've been waiting for this moment for years," he said, referring back to when he first got interested in astronomy. White, a banker by day, has combined that passion for astronomy with skills as a photographer. He has gained fame for his out-of-this-world 3D photos of the Aurora Borealis, various comets and other astronomical spectacles.

He will discuss the science of the solar eclipse as well as ways to safely observe it during presentations this week at the libraries in Basalt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Silt and Rifle (see fact box). His presentation is called "The Great American Eclipse." He will be signing copies of his book, "Prelude Lake," which showcases his nightscape 3D photography.

White said he is thrilled that so many people have taken an interest in the eclipse.

"Casper (Wyoming) has been sold out for two years," he said. "I believe that humans have an innate interest in astronomy."

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That's why so many people are flocking to sites where the solar eclipse will be total. A 70-mile-wide shadow cast by the moon will create a total eclipse across a swath of Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming in the West. In Jackson, Wyoming, for example, the sky will go dark for about 2 minutes and 24 seconds at 11:40 a.m.

The Roaring Fork Valley will get a partial eclipse — but it will still be mighty fine at about 90 percent at 11:42 a.m.

"You'll notice the sky darkening," White said.

There hasn't been a total solar eclipse of this magnitude in the U.S. since June 8, 1918, White said, and the next big event will be April 8, 2024, but mostly on the East Coast.

Past events have shown that the temperature can drop as much as 10 degrees in seconds and that stars become visible because the darkness is so complete, White said. Cows and sheep have been known to head back to the barn during the eclipse.

Basalt Regional Library is taking the event seriously and named August as Astronomy Month with a variety of events. It will host "Gaze at the Stars in the Star Lab" with Garry Pfaffmann on Monday from 1-4 p.m. and Tuesday from 2-5 p.m.

There will be a solar eclipse viewing party on Aug. 21 at the library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. NASA will provide a live feed showing the total eclipse as it crosses the country.

"The library really believes in promoting STEM," said children's librarian Linda Slaybaugh, using the acronym for the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. "This is just another wonderful step for us."

Families are being urged to come to "The Great American Eclipse." The library procured 200 solar eclipse glasses, and one will be given out one per family that attends White's presentation.

The Basalt library also provides three telescopes for patrons to check out on an ongoing basis, thanks to the efforts of Dick Hampleman, a member of the library's board of directors. "They get checked out but not as much as they could be," said library director Ann Scott.

White said his presentation Wednesday is designed to intrigue kids as well as adults.

"So many kids are into their cell phones," he said. "I want them to start looking up."

It's a goal that goes beyond Astronomy Month. White, who once worked as manager of telescopes at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, plans to start an astronomy club in the Roaring Fork Valley.

"What's interesting about observing is knowing what you're looking at," he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO

What: “The Great American Eclipse,” a free presentation by Bryan White on the coming solar eclipse and other celestial events.

When: Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Basalt Regional Library

Saturday, 5 p.m. at New Castle Library

Monday, Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Glenwood Springs Library

Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. at Silt Library

Saturday, Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. at Rifle Library