- Associated Press - Sunday, August 20, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakotans praying for rain this summer should switch it up for just one day.

Clear skies would be very welcome on Aug. 21 to view the first solar eclipse in the United States in nearly 40 years with a solid partial view in North Dakota, The Bismarck Tribune reported .

The phenomenon occurs when the new moon passes between earth and the sun, blocking the sun. The last total eclipse visible in this country occurred in 1979; the next one doesn’t come around until 2024, with much less effect for this region.

That’s all the more reason to check out the rare celestial happening - for people in the Central Time zone, it’ll be nicely timed to coincide with their lunch break.

In western states, the visible path of total eclipse will run through Nebraska, Wyoming and through Oregon. In this region of North Dakota, the moon’s shadow will block about 84 percent of the sun, leaving a crescent of the sun’s upper left quadrant visible at the maximum eclipse.

It’ll be pretty cool to have partial darkness descend over the land mid-day and hear the birds go quiet.

There’ll be few better places to take it all in than at the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site near Stanton. The park will cooperate with the Stanton Public Library to hold an eclipse-watching event, focusing on activities for kids, education and safety. Everyone is welcome to attend. The park opens at 9 a.m. Moon shadow will enter the sun’s field at 11:32 a.m., reach maximum at 12:52 p.m. and exit 2:14 p.m. That’s an hour earlier on the clock for folks in the Mountain Time zone.

Brian Kerns, of Stanton, a seasonal park employee and amateur astronomer, will set up his telescope, fitted with a protective lens, for folks who want to take a closer look.

He did the same thing about a decade ago at the park so people could observe the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun.

It was inspiring, just as he expects the eclipse to be.

“We forget our scale and our place in the universe. I hope to turn people on to that and open doors in their imaginations,” he said.

The historic site at Stanton preserves the homeland of the Hidatsa, Mandan and Arikara, including the earth lodge village site where Sakakawea lived before joining the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804.

Chief interpreter Alisha Deegan says there is no oral legend she’s found that relates to the native people’s experience of an eclipse, though 62 total eclipses occurred during the 18th century, according to the NASA website.

“They did name years for something significant that happened, so there may have been a year they called ‘The year of the dark sun,’” she said.

She will turn to a book “The Sun and the Coyote,” based on a Mandan story, to help youngsters understand the science of the sun.

Public librarian Nancy Miller said she’s planning some simple activities so kids can make a chalk art depiction of the eclipse, understand the phases of the moon and create familiar constellations with toothpicks and marshmallows.

“I’m really looking forward to it; it’s why I wrote the grant. I hope the kids learn the phases of the moon, so they could become little astronomers, little observers,” Miller said.

The organizers will have more than 1,000 NASA-approved glasses on hand. These are cardboard and they look like those goofy 3-D movie glasses, but their protective coating safely blocks dangerous ultra-violet rays from burning the retina.

Sunglasses don’t have the right coating and Joanne Kerns, the park’s museum technician, said people picking up eclipse glasses need to be sure they’re not bogus and also wear them through the entire eclipse event.

Space.com website says people should look for glasses that have an ISO label, which stands for the International Organization for Standardization.

The Veteran’s Memorial Library in Bismarck has a limited number of glasses to give away and other libraries in the region may also be participating, so it’s worth checking around. Also, Gateway to Science in Bismarck will hold an eclipse viewing party.

Joanne Kerns said the park will stream a live NASA feed of the eclipse in the visitor center’s theater. Visitors can duck in there to see coverage of the total eclipse from various locations in the country, a bonus if it happens to be cloud-covered here in North Dakota that day.

In Stanton, organizers are keep their fingers crossed and hoping that a summer of blue skies will prevail for at least one more day.

“It’s an exciting event. We hope to get tourists and younger people interested in the park, to come out here and learn something,” Joanne Kerns said.

For more information, call the park at 745-3309. The NASA website www.eclipse2017.nasa.gov has trajectory maps and other interesting information about the event.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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