Solar eclipse on Aug. 21 first coast-to-coast event in 99 years
Ernest Ricehill remembers the first time he realized that he might be alive to see a total solar eclipse.
Ricehill, a 68-year-old Rifle resident, spent his summers as a teenager inhaling books on astronomy at the library in Sioux City, Iowa.
He was 14 years old when he saw the date of the next total solar eclipse in the United States — Aug. 21, 2017.
“I thought, ‘I hope I’m still alive to see it then,’ ” Ricehill said. “I’ve been waiting a long time.”
Ricehill will be one of millions of people who are expected to travel to see the total solar eclipse, which will cut along a 60-mile-wide path across the United States.
Nearly 600,000 people are expected to descend on Wyoming alone, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Michelle Thomas, a middle school science teacher at Independence Academy charter school, will travel with 40 eighth-graders and 10 parent chaperones to view the total eclipse in Casper, Wyoming.
Thomas and her students raised nearly $3,000 for the weekend trip through bake sales, car washes and garage sales.
“I’m extremely excited to experience that and to provide this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for kids,” Thomas said. “They’ll be telling their grandkids about this one day.”
Thomas and her students will camp in Laramie on Saturday and Sunday, hiking and stargazing, before driving to Casper to view the eclipse at the airport, a special privilege set up by a student’s parent.
“I imagine this will be their favorite unit of the year,” Thomas said, laughing.
While there won’t be a total eclipse visible in the Grand Valley on Aug. 21, folks with the right eclipse viewing glasses will be able to see the moon cover 87 percent of the sun, reaching its peak at 11:40 a.m.
Options for viewing the eclipse at an organized event are slim. Douglas Grodt of the Western Colorado Astronomy Club said most members plan to travel to view the eclipse or have to work the day it occurs.
But that has not stemmed the tide of interest, according to Mesa County Libraries spokesman Bob Kretschman. Members of the public have flooded the library looking for free eclipse glasses, many of which are already gone.
The 600 students at Mount Garfield Middle School will spend the three hours leading up to and following the eclipse basking in the partial sun. Teachers and administrators decided to stop classes so students can go outside, eat a picnic lunch and look at the sun through pairs of eclipse glasses.
David Hamilton, a seventh-grade science teacher at Mount Garfield, said he hopes it sparks more student interest in astronomy, science and math.
“I’m looking forward to standing outside around the students and hopefully hearing a lot of ‘Oh, wow, that is cool!’ Because it really is. It’s going to be awesome,” Hamilton said.