Great Jackson Hole Eclipse of 2017


May 3 (Tuesday), 6 p.m., Teton Co. Library Auditorium –Open to Public. Presentation: ” The Great Jackson Eclipse of 2017: Extraordinary Science, Existential Questions and Economics ”. Presented by Sam Singer (Executive Dir., Wyoming Stargazing) & Roman Weil, Univ of Chicago & Princeton.

 Monday, Aug 21, 2017, is the first Total Solar Eclipse [TSE] to visit the US in 38 years.  The totality, which lasts for no more than two minutes and thirty seconds anywhere in the US, starts on the Pacific Coast of Oregon and sweeps across the country, exiting just north of Charleston SC.  The total solar eclipse that will be visible, provided the skies are clear, from Jackson on August 21st 2017 promises to be a spectacular astronomical event. We’ll explore the documented history of solar eclipses, the science behind how solar eclipses take place, why they are so rare compared to lunar eclipses, and the experiments that are being planned for this eclipse.

We’ll talk a bit about the weather issues that will cause some uncertainty about one’s ability to view the totality from Jackson and environs.

Thousands of avid hobbyists will pay $5,000 or more to view the eclipse in its totality.  The hobbyists need to find an accessible place to view the totality [ where moon covers the whole sun, which at any one place is about 70 miles wide] AND have low probability of cloud cover.   There are approximately five such places in the US:  Boise, Idaho Falls, ID; Jackson, Casper WY; St Joe MO  East of St Joe, the probability of cloud cover is too high to interest serious hobbyists.  By one measure, Madras OR is the best place to be.

Of the good places to view, Jackson has the best other tourist attractions.  Current estimates are that 10,000 extra umbraphiles (eclipsomaniacs?) will come to Jackson that weekend on top of the 25,000 tourists who come through that weekend anyhow.  Why might one be skeptical of the crowd estimates?

By last fall, only a half a dozen venues who are planning for it:  the Amangani was then charging $2,400/night with a five-night minimum.  The Jackson Hole Golf and Country Club already had elaborate party and tent plans.    In Jackson, the TSE will occur at 11:35am.

Discussions with the chiefs of Police, Fire, and Emergency Planning of Jackson and Madras OR, communications with officials in Casper and Idaho Falls, consultations with the country’s leading eclipse-specialty tour director, and a leading manufacturer of vision protection devices have provided a variety of insights.

The results of these inquiries involve logistics and economics.  For example, what solutions to parking issues are available and are other cities considering?  What shortages of vision protection devices does the country face? Problems about water? Porta-potties? Garbage disposal?  Tall dry grass and hot catalytic converters?

All of this and more will be discussed during Sam’s and Roman’s presentation.