Science lovers from around the world will gather in Jackson on August 21 to witness what Teton Skies astronomer Ryan Hennessy calls "the biggest astronomical event of our generation
For just over two minutes on August 21, the moon will fully cross in front of the sun, producing the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous U.S. since 1979. Jackson is directly in the “path of totality,” a 60- to 70-mile-wide path that will experience total darkness during the event. Astronomers and eclipse chasers from around the world will travel to Jackson to experience it.
“There are people who chase eclipses all around the globe,” Hennessy says. “This is definitely an event worth planning for and worth traveling for. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We’re incredibly lucky we just happen to be here in the perfect spot.”
And what exactly do you experience during a total eclipse?
“You’re seeing probably the most spectacular sight in nature,” Hennessy says. “You’re seeing the sky go from day to night, the brightest stars, and on that day, the planets Venus and Mars starting to pop out. You need to take it in for those precious two and a half minutes, this incredible sight of the sun’s corona. The temperature comes down a bit. You’ll hear animals, particularly birds, becoming confused about why night is coming, shadows become sharper, the light becomes eerie.”
Hennessy and his company, Teton Skies, will host a ticketed event for the Four Seasons during the eclipse, but wherever visitors watch it, Hennessy cautions that approved solar glasses are mandatory for eclipse viewing—sunglasses or improvised creations will not protect your eyes.
“You should never look at the sun directly,” he says. “You need to use properly made solar glasses or solar telescopes.”
The valley will be packed with events for the eclipse, from a number of exclusive ticketed celebrations to free public events, such as Wyoming Stargazing’s public viewing at Rendezvous Park. Concerts and other festivities will also occur that weekend to entertain everyone gathered for the eclipse.
“We’re so incredibly lucky to live in this place for so many reasons and this is one more of them,” Hennessy says. “We’re along the path of what will be the greatest astronomical spectacle of our generation.”
For more information on the eclipse and related events, go to: TetonEclipse.com.