PITTSBURG — The Pittsburg community and Pittsburg State University students will have an “once in a lifetime opportunity” to watch the solar eclipse on August 21.

PSU and KOAM/FOX14 will be hosting the Great Gorilla Eclipse watch party from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the north side of the Carnie Smith Stadium.

Attendees may park across the street of the Wilkinson Alumni Center on the northeast corner of Ford and Joplin Streets.

“We see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity,” PSU Creative Services Director Jenny Hellwig said. “We are partnered with KOAM and FOX 14 to help people come to campus and share in the activity.

“There is also an educational opportunity to it and it gives people an opportunity to see and learn about the eclipse.”

Sodexo Campus Services will provide food and there will be music and activities.

“There may even be Sunchips and Moonpies,” Hellwig said.

KOAM will hand out 1,000 pairs of eclipse viewing glasses to attendees.

Pittsburg’s chapter of Society of Physics students will also hand out glasses donated by their society as well. The students will help people see through the telescopes provided by the PSU Physics Department.

Pittsburg State University Professor of Physics Serif Uran said those who are purchasing their own eclipse viewing glasses should make sure they are ISO or CE certified — the glasses will be labeled as such.

Uran said if the glasses are taken off at 94 percent totality the remaining six percent of the sun could potentially damage eyes.

He said viewers should not look directly at the sun without the glasses unless at total eclipse — 100 percent total eclipse.

The glasses don’t look like usual sunglasses — without looking into extreme bright light such as the sun, people will not be able to see anything through them.

Uran said the beginning of the eclipse will be at 11:41 a.m. in Pittsburg, the max time is at 1:10 p.m. and it will end around 2:38 p.m. — lasting about two hours and 57 minutes.

The telescopes — Celestron Telescopes — will have a solar filter, which will block the damage of UV light, making it possible for patrons to view the sun and moon close up — specifically to look at the sun’s corona.

About total solar eclipses
A total solar eclipse is when the earth and moon line up with the sun which makes the moon appear to cover the sun, causing a shadow across the Earth.

The size of the earth, moon and sun and the distance away from each cause the solar eclipse.

Uran said the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun.

“The moon is the size of a pepper corn on a large plate,” in comparison, he said.

Distance between the sun and the moon is 400 times the distance between the moon and the earth, making the sun and moon to appear to be the same size.

The moon’s 70 mile diameter shadow will go across from Oregon to South Carolina at a speed of 1,700 miles per hour.

“It takes 90 minutes for the moon’s shadow to go from Oregon to South Carolina,” Uran said.

Uran said at the max point, at the greatest totality, viewers should be able to see bright stars, birds may feel as if they should roost and flowers may feel the need to close.

Uran said eclipses actually happen more often, but we have not seen or recorded them all possibly because the earth is 74 percent water.

History of eclipse

According to Uran, there has not been a total eclipse in the lower 48 states since February 26, 1979 and it has most likely been 200 years since the last line of totality across Oregon through South Carolina.

“There was a small one about 38 years ago in the western United States,” he said.

“I believe, for this area, it will be about 200 years ago for this one.”

Uran said it wasn’t until the 1800s before astronomers were able to begin to project the path of eclipses — in fact, depending where people were from, they had their own beliefs about the eclipse.

“During a war in Eastern Turkey, in 585 b.c. they believed the eclipse was an omen from God,” Uran said. “They laid down their weapons and made peace.”

Today, researchers continue to study the Sun’s corona — it is about 2 million degrees fahrenheit Uran said.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.