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University of Missouri

Astronomical Day

Total eclipse to hit CoMo in 2017.

total eclipse

Columbia will get a front row seat for the 2017 total eclipse. NASA photo.

Missouri hasn’t seen a total solar eclipse since 1839, the year Mizzou was founded.

The waiting ends next summer.

A total solar eclipse will cut a 100-mile-wide path across the United States Aug. 21, 2017, the first day of fall classes at Mizzou, traversing Missouri from just north of Kansas City to just south of St. Louis and passing straight over Columbia.

Columbia’s spot near the center of the path means the total eclipse will last longer than 2 1/2 minutes here. The sun will be partially eclipsed for almost two hours.

A solar eclipse is simply the moon casting its shadow as it passes directly between the sun and the earth. The phenomenon occurs about once a year, but because water covers most of the earth, the eclipse is often in a hard-to-reach spot.

Not so next year.

Angela Speck, professor of physics and astronomy, is leading the eclipse celebration efforts in Columbia. She is also on the National Science Foundation-sponsored eclipse planning committee.

Speck loves recounting the total eclipse in 1991 in Mexico. So many people rushed to such a narrow strip of land that the government shut the border to anyone who didn’t already have a hotel reservation. She expects a huge turnout for the next North American eclipse. “Imagine when you’ve got 300 million people who can drive and go see it!” she says.

Fortunately, the 2017 celebrations will be spread over thousands of miles. If you can’t come to CoMo, find a watch party at missouri.edu/eclipse.

Here’s hoping for a cloudless day.