Excitement is building here in Carbondale, Illinois, where a total solar eclipse will reach peak duration on August 21 at around 1:20 p.m. Central time. As the first solar eclipse to occur coast-to-coast in the continental United States since 1918, the upcoming event is fueling eclipse fever nationwide.
The eclipse will travel across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, in a path of totality about 70 miles wide. The moon will completely obscure the sun only in the path of totality — those outside the path will experience a partial eclipse, which isn’t nearly as dramatic. What’s the big deal about being in the path of totality? Isn’t a 99% eclipse almost as good as total eclipse?
In a recent Sparks podcast published at data-centric site FiveThirtyEight.com, David Baron, a long-time science writer and self-described “umbraphile” who has witnessed five total solar eclipses, said that even a 99% eclipse “is nothing compared to the awe-inspiring site of totality.”
Countless people have tried to explain the difference between a partial and total solar eclipse in prose and poetry. But at Liaison, data is our lingua franca, so Baron’s numerical comparisons between a 99% partial eclipse and a total solar eclipse truly resonate:
- A partial eclipse that obscures 99% of the sun reduces daylight by a factor of 100. A total solar eclipse reduces daylight by a factor of 1 million.
- In a total solar eclipse, brightness is reduced by a factor of 10,000, vs. 100 for a 99% eclipse.
- During a total solar eclipse, viewers experience a 360-degree sunset.
Here is another range of numbers to consider: GreatAmericanEclipse.com estimates that between 1.8 and 7.4 million people will travel to the path of totality. Depending on how many make the trip, the 2017 eclipse could result in the worst traffic jam in American history.
Amtrak recently announced an Eclipse Express service to shuttle viewers from Chicago and Champlain to Carbondale, and tickets sold out in less than 24 hours. Accommodations near the path of totality have been booked for weeks.
Luckily for us in the Liaison’s Carbondale office, we’re in an eclipse “sweet spot.” That’s why NASA has temporarily set up shop in town and scientists are gathering at Southern Illinois University to witness the totality in a location that is close to the point of greatest duration. According to NASA’s eclipse website, scientists used a 1919 total solar eclipse to test Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.
Almost 100 years later, the upcoming total solar eclipse still has much to teach us: NASA says that scientists will attempt to observe “interplanetary dust falling into the sun by searching for its faint infrared light beyond the corona.” And scientists are using lunar profile data from the NASA LRO mission “to predict the exact timing and brilliance of Baily’s Beads [sunlight shining through topographical features on the moon] shortly before totality.”
Just as data illustrates the stark difference between a partial and total solar eclipse and helps reveal the mechanisms of space and time, it can also illuminate business opportunities and contribute to innovation in fields like medical science. As Carbondale prepares for two minutes and 38 seconds of totality on August 21, Liaison is ready to help you find out more about your data-inspired future now.
Be sure to download our infographic – The Great American Solar Eclipse– for more fun data points brought to you by Liaison. This will equip you to impress with greater understanding as you watch the event unfold on Monday. We’ll be watching too.
And, more importantly,contact our data experts,including those at our Carbondale office, to ask about how to solve the right problems to better integrate and manage your business data for greater insight.