Astronomy enthusiast gears up for total solar eclipse

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, June 1, 2017

An Albert Lea High School educator is determined to spread the word about a total solar eclipse that will confuse nature at the end of summer.

On the first day of school this coming fall, Ken Fiscus, an earth and energy science teacher, will not be in school. He will be en route to a better view of the Great American Eclipse.

“It is finally here,” Fiscus said. The educator has not seen a total solar eclipse in 19 years.

Ken Fiscus

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Fiscus will travel to Pawnee County, Nebraska, where he grew up, to feast his eyes on the solar event at 1:03 p.m. Central Time on Aug. 21.

The 2017 total eclipse will only be visible for two minutes and 35 seconds.

A total eclipse, as Fiscus explained Tuesday night at the ALHS auditorium to a group of astronomy enthusiasts, is when the sun is completely blocked by Earth’s orbiting moon. This happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun at the exact right moment and angle, thereby totally or partially blocking someone on Earth’s view of the sun.

A total eclipse has not been visible from the United States since 1998 — and after the Aug. 21 event, a total eclipse will not be visible again from the United States until 2024, Fiscus explained.

Fiscus has only seen two other total solar eclipses in his lifetime as an astronomy enthusiast. He traveled to Mexico in 1991 and Aruba in 1998 to see the rare events.

Albert Lea and its surrounding communities will not be as greatly affected by the solar event as some other Americans.

A total eclipse can only be seen from a certain strip of the United States. The strip is about 70 miles wide and will stretch from Oregon on the West Coast to South Carolina on the East Coast.

The closer people travel to the center of the strip, the darker the sky will become and the more vibrant and longer the eclipse will be, Fiscus said.

In Albert Lea, Fiscus explained that on the day of the total eclipse, the sky will be an odd blue color that people have not seen before. He said colors will seem more saturated in natural light, shimmering lines will cover the ground, contrast will be greater to the eye, shadows will be extremely crisp and the temperature will drop.

During a total eclipse, daytime instantly becomes a dark twilight and only the sun’s rays, or corona, is visible. The darkness that falls over the Earth during a total eclipse travels at the speed of a bullet, Fiscus said. The corona, or crown of the sun, shimmers bright in the night sky.

Fiscus explained that the sky in Albert Lea will not be as dark as certain parts of the country.

This instant darkness confuses nature — Fiscus said he hopes someone brings a rooster to the event so he can hear a rooster crow in the middle of the afternoon.

Animals and people alike will be astounded by the beauty of the event, Fiscus outlined in his presentation.

During the total eclipse that Fiscus witnessed in Mexico in 1991, Fiscus said that even the dolphins surrounding the cruise ship were confused by nature. In Aruba in 1998, divers specifically traveled to the eclipse event to watch the state of confusion for animals underneath the surface of the water.

There are different types of eclipses, Fiscus said, however, the total eclipse is the most rare.

More information about the eclipse or traveling to view the eclipse can be found at

About Evelyn Seffinga

Evelyn Seffinga covers education and arts and culture for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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