Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tips and links for covering Monday's solar eclipse

In an eclipse, the moon shadows part of Earth.
The first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years is coming up Monday, Aug. 21, so here's an omnibus post with tips for covering the event and links to interesting stories and helpful resources.

Tips for coverage
  • Get there early. Experts say the eclipse could cause historic traffic jams, so allot several hours more than you think you'll need to get there and back.
  • Be aware that cell phone coverage may be spotty and plan accordingly. Some rural areas are getting extra cell service for the day, but don't count on it.
  • Bring supplies. Traffic and strained local infrastructure may limit access to food, water and fuel. So gas up your car before you go, and bring food, plenty of water, sunscreen, bug spray, solar eclipse glasses, and whatever recording, writing or photography equipment you need at the scene. Bring a portable phone charger if you will not be near your car, as well as backup batteries for your gear. Consider bringing a portable wi-fi hotspot if you'll be transmitting stories or photos from the scene. If you're staying near your car and can pack a little more stuff, bring a camp chair, a lightweight folding table, and a canopy tent.
  • If you plan to photograph the eclipse with your smartphone, you can safely do it by taping the lens from a pair of eclipse glasses over the lens. If you are using professional equipment, use a solar eclipse filter (not the same as a regular solar filter). Here are some articles on how to photograph the eclipse. Never point any camera, smartphones included, at the sun until it is fully eclipsed or you'll fry the imaging sensor. Apple says a filter may not be needed for iPhones during the eclipse, but better safe than sorry. You won't need any kind of filter when the sun is fully eclipsed, but the filter needs to go back on as soon as the sun starts peeking out again.
  • If you are photographing the eclipse, get as close to the center of the 70-mile-wide path of totality as you can; it'll give you more time to get your shots. Totality is around one minute a few miles from the edge of the path, but as much as two minutes and 30 seconds at the center. Here's a zoomable map that tells you whether you'll be in the path of totality and if so, for how long.
Helpful and interesting links
  • is a great one-stop shop for all your informational needs. It features maps of the path of totality over each state, a map of probable traffic bottlenecks, safety tips, historical eclipse information, fun facts, and an eclipse animation gallery.
  • is a similar site with plenty of info about the eclipse. One great feature is a state-by-state list of communities that are planning official community celebrations. It's not a comprehensive list, so do your homework, but it's a good place to start.
  • This tool from Vox shows you what you'll see from any ZIP code in the U.S. Enter a code, and it will tell you the percentage of the sun that will be covered, show you a time-lapse animation of what you'll see and when the eclipse will be greatest, and how far you'll need to travel to get to an area with totality. 
  • If you don't already have eclipse glasses, they're scarce, but you may still be able to get your hands on a pair at a local store. You may be able to snag a pair online, but beware of fakes that will damage your eyes. Click here for a list of legitimate solar viewer manufacturers, brand names they may be sold under, and chain stores and online vendors that sell them.
  • Here's an article from the Poynter Institute about one small-town Idaho journalist's plans to cover the eclipse while camping.
  • NPR's plans to cover the eclipse include "22 videographers, kid reporters and local newsrooms."
  • Another Poynter article has a round-up of how some different newsrooms are planning to cover the eclipse.
  • University of Kentucky students are planning to live stream the eclipse from the edge of space with a solar balloon.
  • This 10-year-old article from the Kentucky New Era is one of the earliest articles we can find about the eclipse. It predicted (probably underpredicted) the massive crowds expected in Hopkinsville, and revealed a few intriguing facts. For one thing, the point of greatest eclipse (where the sun is most fully covered) is not in the well-publicized Christian County seat but in the nearby community of Cerulean. That's beautifully apropos, since cerulean is a shade sometimes equated with a deep blue sky. The exact point of greatest eclipse is in a field just off Princeton Road. Another fun fact? The eclipse will happen on the 62nd anniversary of the Kelly Green Men incident, in which a Christian County family said aliens landed near their home. That's the source of the phrase "little green men."
  • The tallest building in Hopkinsville, pop. 32,000, is a grain elevator. A video camera with a 360-degree pan has been installed on top of it for livestreaming of the eclipse, the New Era reports.

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