For the first 80 minutes or so, it will be difficult to distinguish the total solar eclipse from any other day.

Unless you are using the specialized solar glasses to stare at the face of the sun, you won’t see the moon begin to slide in front of the glowing orb.

But as the sun becomes about 95 percent covered, that’s when the fun begins, said Ryan Milligan, a solar physicist for NASA. Light and colors start to shift in ways people have never seen. People start having a physical response — hair stands up on their necks, they get goosebumps.

“It’s like something is bleeding the color out of the sky and the surroundings. The shadows get weird,” Milligan said. “You experience some of that at nighttime every day, but your brain knows that there’s a difference, that something is wrong.”

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The Great American Eclipse is the first eclipse that will span the U.S. from West Coast to East Coast since 1918. The momentous occasion has motivated people from all over central Indiana to travel to see the total eclipse, finding viewing spots from Missouri to Illinois to Kentucky to Tennessee.

While Johnson County will witness the sun covered 91 percent by the moon, the opportunity to witness an astronomical show nearly 100 years in the making is making people drop what they’re doing and get to the heart of the action.

“That’s what it’s all about — being in the shadow. For those brief few moments, as fleeting as they are, you’ll have a full memory bank full,” Milligan said. “It’s that instance when you see the clockwork of the solar system in action, and you realize you’re just standing on a ball of rock watching another ball of rock block out the sun. It’s that primal.”

Cathy Ann Armour and her family will be trekking to Madisonville, Kentucky. Her son, Harrison, is a sophomore at Franklin Community High School, and has shown a lot of interest in science and astronomy.

“I know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we’re going to seize the day and do it,” she said.

Hotels and campgrounds are booked as people from all over the world are flocking to the path of totality. Luckily, the Armours have an inside connection. They’ll be traveling with close friends and staying with their family members.

Armour doesn’t know what to expect on the day of the eclipse, but she’s happy to be right at the center of one of the most awe-inspiring natural events to happen in generations.

“I’m really excited to see it. I hope that it’s a nice day, and not a rainy day,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to see the weather forecast beforehand, and if we need to adjust where we’re going, we’ll adjust.”

The path of totality for the Great American Eclipse stretches like a belt across the entire continental U.S. The eclipse will start at Lincoln Beach, Oregon, at 12:04 p.m., eventually ending near Charleston, South Carolina, at 4:10 p.m.

“This is unique in that the totality part of it is going over such a continental land mass,” Milligan said. “Eclipses happen on average every 18 months somewhere on the planet. But it can be over an ocean, over a desert, over Siberia or islands in the middle of the Pacific, so it can be difficult to get to. Anyone visiting or living here already, it’s less than a day’s drive to get to.”

For Milligan, this will be the eighth total solar eclipse that he’s witnessed. He has been to Russia, Tanzania, Turkey and the Faeroe Islands in the North Atlantic. He’s had the opportunity to stand on a mountain and watch the eclipse approach in a surreal chain of events.

“You see the moon’s shadow rushing towards you at 1,500 miles per hour and the darkness sort of slams into you like a brick wall, the lights go out, that’s an experience,” he said.

The staff at Link Observatory Space Science Center, a nonprofit group focused on astronomy, space science and NASA missions located just south of Mooresville, has been planning a trip into the path of totality for the past three months.

Williams organized the trip. For him, it was an opportunity to help people experience a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“Part of it was a selfish reason: I wanted to see it,” he said. “I talked with my partners, and we said that if we want to see it, there’s probably other people who want to see it.”

They decided to charter a bus and travel into the heart of the path of totality. At first, they stressed over how many people would be interested in the bus trip, Williams said. Organizers didn’t know if there would be enough people to fill the bus, and worried about losing money by securing a whole bus if only a handful of people signed up.

They found out quickly there was no cause for concern.

“We got the first bus, and it was about four weeks before that bus filled up. So we got a second one, and that one filled up in two weeks. Then the third one filled up in about 10 days,” Williams said. “We’re up to five buses now. It’ll be a big old caravan going down.”

About 300 people are signed up to be part of the excursion. Fortunately for local enthusiasts, the place where the total eclipse can be seen the longest is just four hours away in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

From that location, they’ll be able to see 2 minutes, 40 seconds of totality — the longest in the country.

“From everything I’ve heard, it’s just amazing. The sun blacks out and the birds stop chirping and temperature drops, everything changes,” Williams said. “So we want to be there for as long as we can.”

The best views may be in the path of totality. But for those who can’t travel, local libraries are hosting parties to help people experience the eclipse together.

Johnson County Public Library branches at Clark Pleasant and White River Township will have children’s activities and games, as well as crafts that revolve around the celestial event, such as making your own pin-hole camera to witness the moon blocking out the sun.

People are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket to spread outside. A live feed of the eclipse provided by NASA will be streamed indoors at each branch, in the case that cloudy weather obscures the view.

“We like to respond to what’s going on in our world, and this was something that all the branches thought would get on board with,” said Tiffany Wilson, manager for the library’s Franklin branch. “An event like this doesn’t come around very often.”

Though a limited number of eclipse glasses will be passed out, people are asked to bring their own pair if they have them, Wilson said.

Still, hardcore astronomy fans are encouraging that if you have the means, make the trip to see totality.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity, and if you’ve never seen a total eclipse, I highly recommend it,” Williams said.

How to make a pinhole projector

The only safe way to view Monday’s solar eclipse directly is with certified eclipse glasses. But even if you don’t have a pair, you can still follow the moon as it passes in front of the sun.

Using a pinhole projector, people can safely see the eclipse unfold without looking at the sun. Here’s how to do it:

What you need

  • 2 pieces of white card stock
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tape
  • A pin or paper clip

1. Cut a square hole into the middle of one of your pieces of card stock.

2. Tape of piece of aluminum foil over the hole.

3. Use your pin or paper clip to poke a small hole in the aluminum foil.

4. Place your second piece of card stock on the ground and hold the piece with aluminum foil above it, with the foil facing up.

5. Stand with the sun behind you, and view the projected image on the card stock.

— Information from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

How Eclipses Work

How Eclipses Work

Solar eclipses happen when the moon moves between earth and the sun. Only when the sun, moon and earth line up close to the intersection of the orbital planes of the moon and earth can you have an eclipse.

When the moon does eclipse the sun, it produces two types of shadows on earth. The umbral shadow is the relatively small in diameter point on Earth where an observer would see a total eclipse. The penumbral shadow is the much larger area on Earth where an observer will see a partial eclipse. Here, the sun is not completely covered by the moon.

Four Types of Eclipses

Total eclipse: When the moon completely covers the sun. Here, the observer is standing under the umbral shadow of the moon. In a total solar eclipse, the sun’s outer atmosphere can be seen. The brighter stars and the planets come out. There is a noticeable drop in both light level and air temperature.

Partial eclipse: Occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, off center and only a portion of the sun’s disk is obscured. Here, the observer is standing in the penumbral shadow of the moon.

Annular eclipse: When the moon passes dead center in front of the sun but, because the moon’s orbit is elliptical and is sometimes closer and sometimes further from Earth, it appears too small to fully cover the disk of the sun.

Hybrid eclipse: A combination of total and annular eclipses. The eclipse begins as one type and ends as another.

— Information from NASA

The Great American Eclipse

What: An eclipse of the sun visible all over North America. The path of totality — where the moon will completely cover the sun — will stretch from Salem Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.

When: Aug. 21

What will Johnson County see: Locally, the sun will be about 92 percent covered by the moon.

When does the partial eclipse start: 12:58 p.m.

When will the maximum eclipse be: 2:25 p.m.

When is the end of the eclipse: 3:49 p.m.

More information:

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.