- Associated Press - Sunday, August 20, 2017

WALTON, Ind. (AP) - Astronomer Forrest Hamilton has witnessed a lot of heavenly events in his lifetime. The 52-year-old Walton resident has seen the aurora borealis, Venus pass in front of the sun, Halley’s comet and even the rings of Saturn. But he’s never seen a total solar eclipse.

On Aug. 21, during what has been deemed the Great American Eclipse, Hamilton hopes that will change.

Hamilton first fell in love with astronomy when he was a child, though he believes he was actually born with that passion. The Walton native even remembers the first time he stood in awe at the inner workings of the solar system.

“My first telescope I ever remember using was when my dad got a 40-millimeter Kmart Focal, and I looked at the moon and Saturn with it in the parking lot of the R-Bar,” he said. “It was probably 1974 or 1975, and it was amazing.”

Upon graduating from Indiana University in 1987 a few years later with degrees in astrophysics and astronomy, Hamilton headed off to Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked with the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

After moving back home to Cass County a few years ago, Hamilton became the area’s local astronomer and even joked that he bought a home in one of the darkest places of the county so he could see the night sky without light pollution.

So for a man who has spent the last 30 years working on space telescopes like Hubble, Kepler and James Webb - a new one which will launch in October 2018 - one might think witnessing a total solar eclipse is just another day on the job. But Hamilton said it’ll be a definite “bucket list” moment for him.

“I don’t know where it’s going to rank on the things I’ve seen, but it’ll probably be pretty good,” he said. “A lot of those things like Saturn and the moon through a telescope is something you look at, but a total solar eclipse is something you experience. The whole environment is changing around you as it’s happening, so it’s a whole different level.”

Hamilton said he’s already making preparations for the big event, including performing test runs on his telescopes and cleaning his different optic lenses. He’s also monitoring weather patterns and said he will make a decision on where he will travel just a couple days ahead of the solar eclipse.

And he knows he won’t be the only person on the highway. The Great American Eclipse website estimates between 1.8 and 7.4 million people will travel to the path of the solar eclipse’s totality.

But if you don’t plan on traveling, Hamilton said you can still see an amazing show right here from Logansport. Though residents will not see a total solar eclipse, Hamilton said the sun will be about 88 percent blocked by the moon.

“It’s going to be strange,” he said. “When the sun gets eclipsed over 50 percent or so, it’s weird outside. You feel like your eyesight’s failing you because you’re used to a certain level of brightness on a sunny day. So enjoy that. Look at the leaves on the ground and all the different shadows.”

Also remember to wear your safety glasses, Hamilton said. Since the eclipse in Logansport won’t reach full totality, Hamilton said it’s important to remember to wear special solar eclipse safety glasses throughout the entire eclipse process - which will begin just before noon and end shortly before 4 p.m.

And in the event of a cloudy day, Hamilton said there’s no need to fret, as there will also be another total solar eclipse that splits right through the city of Kokomo in April 2024. There will even be another one crossing the U.S. in August 2045, though Indiana will not be in the direct path.

But for Hamilton, he’s hoping 2017 is the year for him.

“I mean, what’s it going to be like to see this hole in the sky?” he said. “It’ll look like the darkest black you’ve ever seen where the sun once was, and the sun will have a wreath around it. It’ll just completely otherworldly than you’d expect on Earth. I’ve been here for 52 years and have never seen a sky like that.”

Until now.


Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune


Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com

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