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Helena Astronomical Society preps for solar eclipse

Solar Eclipse Viewing
Posted at 6:53 PM, Apr 05, 2024

HELENA — Part of your day will be darkened on Monday with the solar eclipse, and MTN talked with space enthusiasts to get the details on when it will happen and how to watch it safely.

Even though it happens somewhere in the world every 18 months, weather conditions will be ideal for the partial eclipse.

"It'll almost look like the cookie monster took a bite out of the sun," said Ryan Hannahoe from the Montana Learning Center (MLC).

With its path, Montana will only be able to see a partial eclipse, which is when the moon partially covers the sun.

According to Hannahoe, first contact will occur at 11:39 AM, the maximum coverage will be 37 percent at 12:40 PM, and the partial eclipse will end at 1:42 PM.

MTN meteorologist Joey Biancone says the weather should be pretty clear for viewing.

"Monday morning, we should wake up to clearing skies. We'll have partially cloudy skies by the time of the maximum eclipse," Biancone said.

Hannahoe has traveled to the East Coast to livestream a total eclipse on the MLC's Facebook page.

He said, "Once you have totality, the temperature goes down, the birds stop singing, the grasshoppers stop chirping. It's quite magical."

MLC recommends ISO-certified eclipse glasses or viewers approved by the American Astronomical Society.

ISO certified glasses

Most places in Helena are already sold out of eclipse glasses, but the Lowe's in town said they had over 100 pairs as of Friday.

Counterfeit eclipse glasses are now on the market, so people should make sure the glasses they use are certified.

"You only get one pair of eyes, so you really want to play it safe," said Hannahoe.

Eclipse shades

Biancone said, "[You] could lose your sight if you look at it for too long or at the right angle, so you definitely want to be able to see future eclipses."

Other ways to view the eclipse include using a welder's helmet with a shade of 13 or 14.

People can cast the eclipse's shadow on the grounds using the pinhole or colander methods.

Helena Astronomical Society is holding a viewing event on Monday at Montana Wild from 11 AM to roughly 3 PM.

Montana Wild

"Whenever there is an event that is of interest, we try to hold some sort of event. It's not always possible; we're just a small club, but this is something that is getting nationwide attention, and we wanted to provide something for the people of Helena," said Jon Dilliard, the treasurer for the Helena Astronomical Society.

The club will have at least two telescopes available and several eclipse glasses for people to use.

Weather permitting, the club will stream the total eclipse livestream from MLC.

If MLC's stream is too cloudy, the club will use NASA's livestream.

Remember to protect your eyes if you are going to watch the eclipse for yourself.