The Great Total Eclipse of 2017


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut
Martz/Kohl Board of Directors

Special Viewing at Martz/Kohl Observatory
Time is ticking down till the first total solar eclipse to be seen on the continental US in nearly 38 years, since February 26, 1979. The Martz/Kohl Observatory will be open to the public for a special viewing opportunity.

Tom Traub, Martz/Kohl board member and solar eclipse specialist, will present a special talk on solar eclipses and safe viewing practices at the Observatory’s regular Wednesday evening meeting, August 9. The general meeting begins at 7:30 with the presentation to follow between 8:00 and 9:00. Guests are invited to visit the Observatory for this special event.

On August 21st, according to Traub, the Moon’s shadow will move across the United States from the Pacific Ocean on the central Oregon seacoast and end in South Carolina at the Atlantic Ocean. From the Martz-Kohl Observatory in Frewsburg, the closest the path of total eclipse is about 500 miles to the SSW, about a 9-hour drive to get in the full shadow’s central path. A total eclipse is a truly spectacular event to see, and each eclipse has its own unique character.

As seen from the Martz/Kohl Observatory, the moon will cover 75% of the sun’s visible surface, beginning at 1:11:50 p.m., seen about 60 degrees above the horizon and almost due south. Maximum coverage will occur at 2:34:50 PM with the Sun just a bit lower in the sky in the southwest. For this eclipse the moon appears 2.923% larger than the Sun as seen from Earth’s surface.

Nature Responds!
All of nature is expected to respond, according to folklore and the experience of ornithologists who have seen it before. For many wild animals a solar eclipse is like a sudden “midday night”. Songbirds may retire to their nests singing their beautiful dusk serenade, grow quiet for the brief “night”, and then arise with their usual dawn chorus minutes later when the morning sun reappears.

Special Viewing Invitation
The Martz/Kohl Observatory will be open for public viewing throughout the full eclipse event with special glasses available for guests to safely look at the sun and the Moon passing in front of it, casting its enormous shadow across the land. Special equipment for a projected image will also be on hand so viewers can take a picture of the eclipse with their own cell phones. (PLEASE NOTE: It is extremely dangerous to look at the sun during an eclipse without the kind of special, protective eyewear available at the Observatory or sources approved by NASA or other qualified ISO or CE Certified sources.)

Based on weather satellite imagery taken over the last 6 years, on the date of this eclipse three of those years were completely clear of clouds, with only partial cloud cover on the others, promising a good chance of clear viewing atop Robbin Hill in Frewsburg on August 21.

The 75% coverage by the moon will provide some of the expected unusual lighting effects but the shadows and pinhole viewers will create weird shapes and patterns. The last of the partial phase will occur at 3:53:01 p.m. with the Sun at 45.0 degrees altitude in the WSW. Total time the moon partially covers the sun from the observatory is 2 hours 41 minutes 10 seconds.

The wait then begins for something even more spectacular! Find out at the eclipse talk on Wednesday evening.

For a deeper look at the night sky, planets, stars and the entire universe, visit the Martz/Kohl Observatory online at, check the schedule of events and visit in person. Thank you to Hall and Laury Opticians for sponsoring these Martz/Kohl column.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.