First, a note on the emotions of getting a full view of the solar eclipse on Aug. 21:
A great thing about the continental United States is that it stretches for a long way. So, too, will the historic eclipse’s path of totality. That means wherever you are, you’re likely to be pretty close to the 70-mile-wide band across the country in which the moon will be seen to completely cover the surface of the sun.
Lincoln City, Ore., at 10:15 a.m. their time (12:15 p.m. Kansas City time) will be the first place in the continental U.S. to see the sun’s rays blotted out by the moon. From then on, the full shadow of moon will speed across the breadth of the country and over 14 states to depart the U.S. 2 1/2 hours later through Charleston, S.C., at 2:48 p.m. eastern time.
About 200 million Americans live within a day’s ride of the path. Across the country, cities and towns at the very center of that path — known as the centerline — are either expecting or hoping to attract a crush of sky-viewing humanity.
In St. Joseph, Mo., hotel rooms, RV sites, tent campsites and Airbnbs have been booked for months.
Is that the place to be? Sure, if you want. At just after 1 p.m., towns along the centerline get the longest view of the total eclipse, lasting two minutes and 40 seconds.
Do you have to be there? No.
The only difference between viewing the eclipse on the centerline and viewing it away from the centerline is the amount of time the total eclipse will last. Here’s some options to help you decide what to do:
▪ Locator map: DayStar Filters, a company that supplies photographic and astronomical filters out of Warrensburg, Mo., has posted a total eclipse locator (http://www.howtoeclipse.com/locate.html) that uses Google maps to allow you to type in any address.
It instantly reveals, first, whether the address is within the path of totality. If you’re not in the path of totality, you will not see a total eclipse. You’ll get a partial eclipse with the sun shining through.
Second, it reveals the time the total eclipse will occur at that address. Third, and perhaps most notable, it indicates how long the total eclipse will last.
The map, for example, makes it clear that at English Landing Park in Parkville, well within the path of totality, the total eclipse will be visible for 1 minute and 21 seconds.
In Liberty, it’ll last 2 minutes and 7 seconds. In Weston, it’ll be seen for a second less, at 2 minutes and 6 seconds.
In Kansas, Atchison will get 2 minutes and 20 seconds of total eclipse. Leavenworth: 1 minute and 37 seconds.
In Macken Park, close by in North Kansas City, just across the Missouri River from downtown, the eclipse will be viewable for 1 minute and 11 seconds.
One caution about the locator map: Eclipse experts recently revealed that many of the maps appearing online are not as precise along the northern and southern edges as they seem. The path of totality could be narrower by as little as 100 meters (a little bigger than a football field) or by as much as half a mile.
One map, in fact, indicates that viewers in the north parking lot of The Kansas City Star building at 1729 Grand Blvd. would get a total eclipse for a lowly 3 seconds. But in the south parking lot, on the other side of the building? No total eclipse at all. Because the path edges on the map are not as precise as they appear, it’s advisable to go in farther in from the edges to be sure you’ll see a total and not a partial eclipse.
▪ Other “centerline” cities. St. Joseph may be biggest city in Missouri so close to the centerline. But there are plenty of other towns along the line, including Lathrop, Elmira, Knoxville. They stretch the length of the state. Rocheport, Columbia and Jefferson City aren’t precisely on the line, but they’ll all still get more than 2 minutes and 30 seconds of total eclipse. The state capital city is holding a three-day festival that includes a Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) tribute band and ends Monday with multiple watch parties.
▪ Parks. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has listed 42 locations in its state parks open to view the eclipse, all within the path of totality. They range from Big Lake State Park in northwest Missouri to Watkins Mill and Weston Bend State Park not far from Kansas City to the Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau. Reservations are needed in some locations, so check first.
▪ St. Joseph. Sure, why not? Throngs offer a shared experience and an excitement all their own. At least 10 public watch parties are being held in St. Joseph, where the eclipse will go into totality at 1:07 p.m.
→Rosecrans Memorial Airport, 100B N.W. Rosecrans Road, (816) 271-4886.
Rosecrans will have tent camping and RV areas available from Aug. 19 to Aug. 21, for $40 to $50 per night. Vehicles can park for $20 on the day of the event if there’s room. (All reserve tickets at bit.ly/SolarEclipseAtRosecrans.)
Amateur and professional astronomers with high-powered, safety-filtered telescopes will be on site along with a detailed running commentary by Michael Bakich, a senior editor at Astronomy magazine. (Live broadcasts on 105.5FM, 1550FM, 92.7FM, and 680AM.)
→Coleman Hawkins Park at Felix Street Square, 701 Felix St. This is the main viewing spot in downtown St. Joe. Live entertainment, food and drink vendors.
→Trails West! Festival, Civic Center Park/City Hall, 1100 Frederick Ave. (816) 233-0231. TrailsWest.org.
Festival runs from Friday through Sunday, with viewing on Monday. Open at 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday, noon Sunday, 10 a.m. Monday. Weekend festival has music and other performing artists, art, crafts and food vendors. Four-day festival fee is $10 or $15 at the gate.
→Heritage Park, 2202 Waterworks Road, bit.ly/HeritageParkCamping. Tent camping for $40 per night. Reservations required.
→East Hills Shopping Center, 3702 Frederick Ave. shopeasthills.com. (816) 279-566. The mall’s huge parking lot is a city-approved viewing location and will offer free planetarium shows Saturday through Monday. Parking is free but spots can be reserved for $25 per space.
→Pony Express National Museum, 914 Penn St. (816) 279-5059. PonyExpress.org. Come for the events, stay for the eclipse.
Astronomy lesson at the Pony School, an 1860s one-room schoolhouse. Cost is $5 for adults, $1 for children up to age 12. At the Pony Express Museum, living history character Mabel Loving shares her impressions of a total eclipse she experienced in 1918 in Garden City, Kan. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children, $1 for children ages 4 to 6. From Friday to Sunday, visit Native American lodges on the grounds and learn how they used the sun, moon and stars in their daily lives.
→Remington Nature Center, 1502 McArthur Drive. (816) 271-5499. stjoenaturecenter.info. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking, outside information booth, inside eclipse window displays and scavenger hunt. Touring Nature Center is $3 or less per person.
→Solar Eclipse Golf Classic, St. Joseph Country Club, 50 Ridgeland Road. (785) 760-1116. solareclipsegolfclassic.com
GreatLIFE KC is hosting a charity golf classic to celebrate the eclipse and benefit area children through the GreatLIFE Cares Foundation and Royals Charities. St. Joseph Country Club is one of 24 locations participating in the tournament on Aug. 21st.
→St. Joseph Harley Davidson, 4020 South U.S. 169. (816) 233-9061. stjoeharleydavidson.com. Watch party 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
→Tipple Hill Winery & Vineyard, 10501 U.S. 36, Easton, Mo., five miles east of St. Joseph. (816) 294-7968. tipplehillwinery.com
Open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., viewing location with limited space. Recommended to bring lawn chairs. Food, vendors and telescope viewing available. Outside live music 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Wine sampling. Complimentary solar eyeglasses with purchase.