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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


Warrensburg Community, UCM to Enter Shadow of Historic 2017 Solar Eclipse

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (June 12, 2017) – An opportunity to experience a rare celestial treat awaits anyone who is on the University of Central Missouri campus early this fall. UCM and the Warrensburg community are directly in the path of the first total solar eclipse since 1918 to trek from one United States coast to the other.  

An event that takes place Monday, Aug. 21, the path of totality averages approximately 70 miles wide and extends from Oregon to Georgia. This will give people in limited areas across the continental U.S. a combined total of about 90 minutes to witness what happens when the Earth, moon and sun perfectly align. Those who miss out on this opportunity can see another continental solar eclipse in 2024, but to do so they must travel outside Missouri to be in the narrow track extending from southeast Canada to northwest Mexico. The last solar eclipse occurred a year ago in Indonesia.

Depending on where people are located in the coverage pathway, Warrensburg community members who venture outside for the August 2017 eclipse can expect a gradual blocking out of the sun to a maximum of about 99.8 percent, according to Mike Foster, assistant professor of physics at UCM and a participant in the National Solar Observatory’s (NSO)  citizen-based Continental America Telescopic Eclipse Experiment (CATE). This will occur as the new moon moves between the sun and the Earth at the perfect distance to obstruct the sunlight. The duration for optimal viewing, however, will be very short – just minutes – and will vary even within the local area.

For those who want to experience this event, Foster cited a timeline available on the international website,, and its “2017 Eclipse Interactive Google Map.”

Based on information provided at this site, “The eclipse will start at 11:43 a.m. in Warrensburg, and will reach its peak at 1:11 p.m.  Then the sun will be completely exposed again at 4:38 p.m.,” Foster said.

Because the large metropolitan areas of Kansas City and St. Louis are located on the path as it angles across Missouri, the state is uniquely positioned as one of the most highly populated areas to have an opportunity to view the eclipse. So what can people in Warrensburg and these other areas expect to see during this event?

 “It’s going to gradually get darker and darker,” Foster said. “For example, when you walk under trees, the leaves in the trees will act like a pinhole camera. Instead of the shadows in those leaves looking normal, they will have little crescent shapes of the spots of sun coming out, and it will be darker than usual.”

For Foster and a couple UCM colleagues, Mohammad “Mo” Basir, assistant professor of science education, and Monty Laycox, instructor of physics, eclipse day also offers an opportunity to get involved in scientific research. They will travel to Marshall, Mo., a community uniquely positioned in the center of the eclipse path, as participants in the NSO’s Citizen CATE Experiment. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and is expected to draw to that community a number of academicians, high school groups and citizens who have scientific interests. They will converge on the city park, which is one site in a nationwide network of 60 locations across the solar eclipse path, where people will be using the same model telescopes and digital cameras to research the sun.

Foster said the research teams plan to obtain  rapid cadence white light images of the sun and its inner corona at a variety of exposure settings. This will scientifically help create a unique data set for sun research.

“So with clear weather, we will have 90 minutes of continental images across the U.S. and that will give us more images of the sun’s corona than have ever been accumulated before,” he said.

He noted that efforts also are underway to provide viewing opportunities on the university campus utilizing broad band, full-spectrum telescopes and telescopes that can specifically allow individuals to look at hydrogen emissions during the eclipse. Such activities are still being finalized, and will be conducted with safety as a priority. Foster stressed that individuals who plan to attend this event or view on their own need to be aware of ways to protect their eyes from harmful sun rays.

“Looking at the sun, you expose your eyes to a lot of ultraviolet and infrared (radiation), and of course the eye can’t detect any of those,” Foster said. “So, there are things you can do about it. You can make a pinhole shadowbox, that will allow you to project the sun onto something that you can look at and see its shape. That is completely safe.”

 Additionally, there are inexpensive cardboard frame glasses made specifically for looking at an eclipse, and will filter out the harmful sun rays.

 He discourages people from using tools like welding masks and goggles for viewing because most do not keep out the harmful radiation that can harm their eyes. Foster said many of these safety tips are available at

“We’d like to give as many people an opportunity to see the eclipse as we can, but we feel a responsibility to make sure that it be done safely, and we want to make sure they know which way to do it before the event,” Foster said.

Anyone who wants to know more about the solar eclipse is urged to visit