Down to a sliver
Thu, 08/24/2017 - 11:57am admin
Solar eclipse passes over Little Bighorn Battlefield during its coast-to-coast tour across the U.S.
By Andrew Turck / Big Horn County News
The sky dimmed and temperature dropped by six degrees Fahrenheit at the Little Bighorn Battlefield gravesites and memorial on Monday as visitors watched the moon blot out 93 percent of the sun. Normally during the summer at that time of day – 11:40 a.m. – birds could be heard and it would be brighter, but today was the time of the much-anticipated solar eclipse.
More than 200 miles to the south in Casper, Wyo. the Earth went completely dark for about two minutes as the moon overlapped the sun completely in its coast-to-coast journey across the United States.
The last total solar eclipse to pass over North America occurred in 1979.
Utilizing a wooden Sunspotter telescope at the battlefield, seasonal ranger Will Abbot traced the moon’s path with a pencil, paper and mirrors reflecting light from the sun. He pointed out sunspots – or cooler, dark areas on the sun’s surface – to audience members as he went. He noted that each spot, represented by a pencil mark on a 3.25-inch solar image, is roughly the size of the Earth.
“We’ll see how fast 1,800 miles an hour of the Earth turning shows itself on a little scope projected on a piece of paper,” he said.
To aid the audience of about 100 in viewing the eclipse itself, special glasses were distributed through which one could only see bright light. Watching an eclipse with the naked eye, Abbot explained, could easily cause permanent damage to one’s retinas.
“As I learned in my later years, I’m partly night blind, probably because as a kid I sat and stared at the sun until it didn’t hurt anymore,” Abbot told the crowd. “Pretty stupid stunt, wasn’t it? You guys aren’t going to do that, right?”
Donna Ciliberto of New Paltz, N.Y. stopped by as part of a road trip with her family, and took advantage of the access to glasses. It was a new experience for her, she said, and she enjoyed following the sun via her glasses and the Sunspotter.
“It was just so sharp and clear; I’ve never seen anything like that,” she said. “[I liked] seeing the sun through the leaves, where you could only see parts of the sun.”
Abbot has been interested in cosmic phenomena for the majority of his life, he said, and this year he was “particularly interested” in the Native American stories and traditions surrounding the eclipse.
Throughout the eclipse, Abbot referred to the moon as a wolf who was trying to eat the sun.
“One of the traditions is that Wolf – the moon – is taking a bite out of Sun, who’s resisting,” Abbot said, using a story also found Viking folklore. “The other version of the story is that they’re male and female – those are very common themes throughout Native America…the idea of male and female joining in the sky, creating new life and a new age.”
As the moon moved away and the Earth became brighter, morning calls could be heard from some of the area birds. It was 11:59 a.m.