SALT LAKE CITY — People who call themselves “eclipse chasers” are giddy about the upcoming solar eclipse, including a man who has seen five of them in his lifetime and calls himself an “eclipse-o-maniac.”
On the morning of Aug. 21, millions of Americans are expected to be on the move, hoping to see a total eclipse of the sun.
Utah’s best-known sky watcher, Patrick Wiggins, has collected souvenir T-shirts at solar eclipses all over the world. With five total solar eclipses under his belt, some might say he’s a nut for a show that lasts just more than two minutes.
“An eclipse-o-maniac, they call it,” Wiggins said. “It gets in your blood, and the next thing you know you’re spending way more money than you probably should. And you’re going to far-flung places on the planet.”
Several eclipse chasers were in attendance at a recent meeting of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, the Desert News reported (http://bit.ly/2vvnyDZ ).
The solar eclipse, the period when the moon completely hides the sun, on Aug. 21 has been billed as “The Great American Eclipse.” It will cross the country coast-to-coast from Oregon to South Carolina. It will be the best eclipse for Americans in 99 years.
To see the solar eclipse in its totality, a viewer must be inside a 60- to 70-mile-wide zone of totality that crosses 14 states including Idaho and Wyoming. Many Utah residents are expected to drive to Idaho and Wyoming.
“With millions of people within a three-hour driving distance of this eclipse, this is going to be the most observed eclipse in history,” said Siegfried Jachmann, a past president of the Salt Lake Astronomical Society.
Another former society president, Lowell Lyon, saw one of his two total eclipses in Mexico.
“The minute totality started, it was like the cheer of a hometown touchdown at a football game,” Lyon said. “Everybody screamed and yelled.”
During the period of totality, observers sometime see solar prominences, huge blasts of fiery energy leaping from the sun’s surface.
“Right at the very edge of the moon, you can see prominences from the sun, which are very beautiful,” said Joe Bauman, Salt Lake Astronomical Society vice president, who has seen five total eclipses. “And everybody has always had awe, gasped and almost cried; people have been so moved by it. It’s the most stunning natural phenomenon you can see.”
For those who do go all the way to central Idaho or Wyoming, totality will be just after 11:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21.