Students at BYU-I will have the opportunity to have a front row seat to a total solar eclipse. (Chris Goyette, Photo Illustration)

Months of Preparation for Two Minutes of Darkness

Preparations are being made for a total solar eclipse that will be visible from Rexburg on Aug. 21, 2017.

The eclipse, referred to as the Great American Eclipse, will begin at 11:33 a.m. and will last about two minutes and 18 seconds, according to the Great American Eclipse website.

Rexburg and the surrounding valley is one of the best places to see the eclipse when it happens, according to the Great American Eclipse website.

“We’ve got people from all over the world that’ll be coming to Rexburg,” said Eric Conrad, the managing director of University Services at BYU-Idaho.

Conrad said instead of just waiting for hundreds of people to come, he and the city have been working together to prepare for the observers.

“A lot of them are coming in the Friday before the solar eclipse just to see the area,” Conrad said. “So far, we’ve got about 800 people confirmed.”

Conrad said about 200 of these people are from Norway, and 50 are from MIT. He said many from UCLA are confirmed as well, and as the event approaches, even more will register.

Conrad said many of these people are eclipse-chasers, or people who travel around the world to see the eclipse.

Conrad said professors from MIT will be giving presentations and lectures to teach about what the eclipse is and how it happens.

He said BYU-I will allow people to set up their telescopes at different areas on campus on the day of the eclipse.

“We are also purchasing 10,000 solar eclipse glasses, and we’ll just be selling them at cost at the BYU-Idaho store,” Conrad said. “That way, everyone that comes out will be able to have glasses and look directly at the solar eclipse without hurting their eyes.”

A total solar eclipse is when the moon blocks the entirety of the sun and a shadow is cast down from the moon, according to NASA. The moon and sun are in direct alignment, and only those who are in the shadow can view the eclipse.

The last total eclipse was on March 9 but was only visible in Indonesia and in a few islands of Micronesia, according to the Great American Eclipse website.

Todd Lines, a physics professor at BYU-I, said a solar eclipse is not extremely rare, it is the fact that it is happening in this area that makes it special.

“The chance of it being where you are is very slim,” Lines said.

Lines said Joseph Shaw, a professor from Montana State University, will be coming to do some studies and measurements during the eclipse.

“The principle measurement we will be trying to do is on total sky polarization,” Lines said. “But to support that, we will need lots of other measurements.”

Lines said wind speed and direction, temperatures from the ground upward and measurements on the amount of light from the sun will all be taken.

“It’s going to get dark, and measuring how it gets dark is interesting,” Lines said. “These are rare events, so there hasn’t been a lot of measurement done on eclipses.”

Lines said Shaw’s father did similar studies and measurements on an eclipse years ago. He said next year’s solar eclipse will give them a chance to validate Shaw’s father’s findings.

“I measured an eclipse once, and this is the second time in a lifetime,” Lines said. “It is not like this is something I do every day.”

Lines said students from BYU-I will help achieve that, but he sees the experience as the most beneficial for BYU-I students. He said that by using the equipment and taking these measurements, students will gain great knowledge for future careers.

Copyright 2015 BYU-I Scroll