Columbia area residents are fortunate to be smack-dab in the middle of the path of totality, in which the moon blots out the sun totally, turning day into night. The eclipse will begin around 11:45 a.m., reaching totality around 1:12 p.m. for a period of almost three minutes. The partial eclipse will continue until about 2:30 p.m.
It is being called a celestial event of epic proportions.
“Pictures do not convey the experience of totality. Nothing you read, see or hear can prepare you for the spine-tingling, goosebumps-inducing experience of the total eclipse,” according to Dr. Kate Russo, an eclipse consultant. “You do not simply see a total eclipse. You experience it. You are immersed in it. You are completely overwhelmed by it. Many people say that the experience of totality changes their lives.”
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Eclipses happen frequently and chances are you’ve experienced a partial one. What makes this one so special is that the path of the eclipse crosses the continental United States from the west to the east coast. The last time that happened was in 1918.
Most of the country will experience a partial eclipse, which is spectacular in its own right. But for 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina, including Missouri, the 67-mile-wide path of totality will turn midday into something resembling a full moon night. The path of totality will take about 90 minutes to cross the entire country, and about 13 minutes to pass over Missouri.
“It is the most impressive thing you will ever see,” according to Michael Bakich, senior editor at “Astronomy” magazine. “Once you see it you will never forget it.”
Eye protection is essential to view the eclipse. Special eclipse viewing glasses will be available at many events, from some city tourism bureaus and from online retailers.
SHOW ME TOTALITY IN COMO
The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau is geared up and ready for the big event, according to Megan McConachie, who calls herself “the eclipse lady.” The period of totality for Columbia will be 2 minutes 36 seconds, beginning at 1:12 p.m. August 21. But the celebrations will go all weekend.
“Although Monday is the big day, we want to have lots of weekend events so people will have many things to experience,” Megan said.
On Saturday, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will sponsor Kaleidospoke, a night ride with glow sticks. This is an annual event that is family friendly and noncompetitive. Also Saturday night is a free movie in Cosmo Park. Sunday offers lots of activities, from a 5K run to a pizza bike ride, winding up with a music festival in Cosmo Park, Sunday afternoon and evening.
On Monday, the big day, there will be two large viewing events. Serious eclipse enthusiasts are being steered to the Gans Creek Recreation Area, where the event will be smaller and quieter. The larger event at Cosmo Park will feature a kids area, activities and a festival atmosphere. For full details, click here.
STATE PARK VIEWING
The Missouri State Parks system has 42 locations, including 19 parks, within the path of totality. The closest one would be the Total Eclipse Bicycle Ride on the Katy Trail, starting in Rocheport and ending at the trail spur north of Jefferson City. An event at the state Capitol will follow the ride. Space is limited and registration is required at www.mostateparks.com/eclipseride.
The 36-mile ride is limited to 500 participants. The $50 registration fee includes a souvenir T-shirt, water bottle and special eclipse viewing glasses. Parks staff will be on hand to provide information about the eclipse and how to safely view it. Information about other sites within the path of totality, camping options and other special activities are available at the same website.
Eugene Vale, an interpretive resource specialist with Missouri State Parks, is passionate about astronomy and excited about the total eclipse.
“I’ve never seen one, so I hesitate in getting too extreme, but the scientists are really excited about seeing this one,” he said. “It will occur about solar noon (1 p.m.), so the sun will be about at its absolute highest in the sky. No buildings or mountains will get in the way. It will get dark. Temperatures will drop. The brightest stars will be visible.”
WHERE ELSE TO GO?
Although viewing will be excellent in the Columbia area, there are events occurring all along the path of totality, if you have the urge to hit the road.
Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport will celebrate Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with live music, specialty cocktails and a viewing party at the A-frame. The Rocheport Distilling Company will launch a new moonshine that weekend, which will be featured at all three winery locations. For details, click here. The town of Rocheport is also throwing an eclipse party. Check the Rocheport Facebook page for more details.
The Jefferson City Capital Eclipse Celebration will include a Saturday night concert, various activities Sunday, and the eclipse viewing on the Capitol lawn on Monday. The city will experience about 2 minutes 29 seconds of totality, at 1:14 p.m. For more info, click here.
Wherever and however you decide to view the eclipse, get ready for a “total” experience.
BEFORE THE BLACKOUT
Learn all about the total solar eclipse at a variety of websites. Here are a few to check out: