Could eclipse be a ray of light for Nevada tourism?
17 October 2011
VEGAS INC Coverage
Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won,
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia,
To see the total eclipse of the sun. — Carly Simon, from “You’re So Vain”
It could be an extraordinary tourism event for rural Nevada and it’s been on the calendar for a millennium.
A total solar eclipse.
They don’t happen very often and when they do, they’re usually over the ocean or in the Southern Hemisphere or someplace far away from home.
But on May 20, the eclipse path will cut through the center of rural Nevada.
“It really should be a good one, just as long as it isn’t a cloudy day,” said Dale Etheridge, the planetarium director at the College of Southern Nevada’s Cheyenne campus.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and casts a shadow on our planet. As the moon and the Earth move during the day, the shadow moves thousands of miles along a very predictable path.
Eclipse chasers notoriously travel thousands of miles to get a look at the rare phenomenon, which only lasts for a few minutes.
Etheridge said the May 20 event would be an annular eclipse, which means the moon is farther away from the Earth in its oval orbit. The effect on Earth is that when the eclipse is at its best, observers will still be able to see a ring of light from the sun around the moon. At no time will the sun be completely blocked by the moon.
The other oddity of the event is that Nevada is on the tail end of it. That means the sun will be setting as the moon creeps in front of it. Etheridge says the sun would set before the eclipse ends, which could produce some unique sunset photos that evening — especially considering some of the incredible vistas in the places where the eclipse will be visible.
The center point of the eclipse path will run from the northwest part of the state to the southeast. For Nevada, the center point will enter the state just north or Reno along the southern shore of Pyramid Lake. It runs just north of Fernley and Fallon, Tonopah, the Extraterrerstrial Highway and Caliente.
Viewers within a 200-mile-wide swath will be able to see the total eclipse, and those just outside of it will see the sun partially obscured. Communities within that path include Reno, Tonopah, Hawthorne, Goldfield, Ely, Moapa Valley and Mesquite. Las Vegas is just outside the path, so viewers here will see a partial eclipse.
Etheridge said the planetarium would be set up that day with telescopes equipped with the proper filters to view it safely. We’ll hear all kinds of reminders not to look directly into the sun to try to see the eclipse, excellent advice if you want to avoid injuring your eyes.
Does the eclipse have a shot at being a major tourism event for rural Nevada?
Etheridge says the event will be exciting to watch, and eclipse chasers — sometimes called “umbraphiles” — are likely to go places where they can get the best views. Cloud cover usually isn’t much of a problem in Nevada in May, and it isn’t likely to be too hot at that time of the year.
Rural Nevada’s wide-open spaces will be prime viewing spots for the event, but the May 20 eclipse will likely get a lot of attention in Eureka and Redding, Calif., which also are along the centerline of the path.
The event is about seven months away, so there’s plenty of time to scout the best locations for viewing and call attention to the rest of the West that Nevada will be one of the best places to witness this cosmic event.
For tourists and locals eager to see something unusual, May 20, a Sunday, should be a big day. The next time a total solar eclipse of this significance occurs in North America will be Aug. 21, 2017. The path on that eclipse will run north of Nevada, through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.
But next year’s will be better for us because it will be in our own backyard.
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