Right off the bat I want to say that in Houston on Monday, August 21, 2017, we are in for a SERIOUSLY AWESOME treat with this solar eclipse. Not because it'll be dark as night, but because you'll see something which will forever burn into your mind (and thankfully, not your eyes.)
One reason it'll be so cool? The shadows! Wait, what? Look under a shade tree, or create a, "pin hole" by crossing your fingers and you'll see a crescent projection of the sun. Actually, if you're under a tree you'll see THOUSANDS of tiny suns. Better yet, schedule a walk with a loved one (cheap date idea!) and find a nice neighborhood sidewalk path under a Live Oak canopy. It's not only the safest way to, "see the eclipse", it'll be a life-long memory for you. This is perhaps the MOST UNDER-RATED part of this entire event. I've heard no one talking about this. It'll only look like this between 1pm and 1:30pm, so don't be late. (Back in 1994, I witnessed this in Massachusetts when an annular solar eclipse came by -- and truly, you won't forget it! Shout out to Bromfield HS, from where I viewed it with my Earth Science class!)
The best part? You won't need to risk your eyes or buy a pair of those throw-back, retro, 1950's-era, 3D glasses style welder's shades. You only need a free spirit to rediscover that sense of playful innocence and exciting discovery you had when you were 6! (Of course, having a pair would be helpful if you wish to see the eclipse in the sky!)
For this truly unmentioned magic to happen, we need a cloud-free sky. Pray for sunshine on that Monday. (Thankfully, we're climatologically more likely to see bright sunshine that day, unless an afternoon thunderstorm pops up. In that case, Houston we have a problem.)
The eclipse here begins at 11:47am and reaches a peak about an hour and a half later, when at precisely 1:16:53pm it reaches 67% obscuration. About an hour and a half after that it'll be back to it's old self, at 2:45pm.
After hearing in the news the phrase, "a total solar eclipse is coming!", you might feel let down because besides the interesting effect on dappled sunshine through the trees, it won't otherwise look like much here. It's, "total" across a swath of the USA but not here in Texas. Stars won't come out. Crickets won't chirp. The temperature won't drop 20°. In fact, it'll most likely resemble what happens when a high cloud deck drifts by, momentarily obscuring it. (I can tell you this with authority because the eclipse I mentioned before, in 1994, left only 11% of the sun visible to me at my location, but the sky was bright as day. I remember asking myself why I left my sunglasses inside.)
Why is this? The human eye sees light on a logarithmic scale. Without diving too deep into the science behind it, our brains generally tell us, "it's light" until the sun is 100% covered. Even at 99% obscuration it'll still look ... "sunny" outside... Really sunny.
If you wish to find a spot of true totality where the stars come out and crickets start chirping, travel to Missouri. It's the closest geographical spot from Houston, at about 11-12 hours up the road. Between about 1:07pm and 1:09pm, it'll be as dark as night! Creepy. I'm sure there, like here, many people will be deeply moved.
Follow me on Facebook!
© 2017 KHOU-TV