HISTORY: Area to be eclipsed Monday

From March 1, 1979: The Northwest marveled Monday morning at the total eclipse, but you had to travel out of the valley to catch a glimpse, as did Mt. Vernon teacher and photographer Steve Merrick. From Hermiston, Merrick was able to record the moon swallowing the sun in the last total eclipse of this century in North America. Dayville teachers Ken Light and Norm Hoffman took 26 students on a search for a view of the eclipse and found clear skies about 25 miles west of Goldendale. Light said the sky became dim, then took on an orange glow before turning dark at totality.

Blue Mountain Eagle

Residents of the Northwest will be treated to one of nature’s rarest and most spectacular phenomenon next Monday morning when the region will be blacked out by a total solar eclipse.

WARNING: Serious and permanent eye damage can result from directly viewing the solar eclipse on Feb. 26, warns the Oregon Optometric Association. Looking directly at the eclipse for as little as 10 seconds can permanently injure the eye’s retina. It happens without pain, but a person can suffer a permanent blind spot that eliminates the central point of vision.

The solar eclipse will be total in most of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Washington and Oregon. Starting shortly after 7 a.m. Monday, the moon will begin to creep across the sun’s face — not literally — and for the next 50 minutes there will be nothing to see safely with the naked eye as the moon moves on.

Only a shadow box, constructed and used properly, will afford safe viewing of the partial stages of the event. It will be the region’s first total eclipse since 1918 and the last one of the century in the country. The next eclipse in the Northwest will be 2068.

About 10 minutes before the totality, the light will begin to fade. Barnyard animals will begin to act confused and perhaps a rooster will start to crow, thinking dusk is approaching.

One of the most fascinating aspects about the eclipse will be the “speeding shadow” that reportedly will come hurtling out of the west at 2,000 miles per hour just prior to totality. If you can get on a hillside with a view of 50 or more miles, it will look like a black speck for a moment before it races across the face of the earth. This will be the moon’s shadow.

At that point, totality is complete and if the skies are clear, stars will emerge from the heavens and planets Venus, Mercury and Mars will be visible.

While the John Day valley is out of the path of totality, the moon will block out the sun’s rays for a few brief seconds before moving on. By 9:30 the happening will have passed.

Editor’s note: This article was published as it appeared in 1979, not correcting for the Aug. 21 eclipse.

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