GREAT FALLS – On Monday, a total solar eclipse will pass over North America, the first time one has crossed completely over the continent since 1979.
The path of 100 percent totality will pass through parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and South Dakota.
Most of Montana will see a partial solar eclipse, where sun obscuration will be greater than 80 percent, and more than 90 percent in parts of southern Montana. In Helena the moon will obscure just over 93 percent of the sun, darkening the sky over the Capital City.
John Thomas, the president of the Central Montana Astronomy Society, is traveling with a group to a remote campsite near Idaho Falls to view Monday’s total solar eclipse.
“We thought that by starting in January to find reservations that we wouldn’t have any problems,” he said. “We were wrong there. We were just flat lucky that we found this place that we’re going to.”
Thomas said the Society has looked forward to the event for the past six or seven years. This will be his first total solar eclipse.
“I have seen a couple of partial eclipses,” he said. “I’ve never seen an annular eclipse, never seen one of those, so that’s on my bucket list.”
Thomas said there are several eclipses in the future including one in 2024 and another in 2044 but neither will follow the same path as Monday’s eclipse making it a unique experience for viewers from coast to coast.
“It’s going to cover almost 4,000 miles across the United States total and more people will see this than have ever seen an eclipse in recorded history,” he said.
He’ll take two telescopes along for the trip so he can view the sun in general and specialized lights. The telescope’s computerized mount also features a GPS that will help Thomas track the eclipse.
“My cameras would be mounted on the telescopes looking through the scopes and tracking the eclipse the whole time we’re observing it,” he said.
He added that even with the impressive technology that’s been developed to view events like a solar eclipse, it’s just as important to take a step back and enjoy the night with your naked eye.
“Don’t spend all your time taking pictures, don’t spend all your time looking through the scope there,” he said. “Spend about 30 seconds looking at it with your eyes ’cause you’re not going to see it again y’know?”
Thomas said the group’s campsite should get a clear view of Monday’s eclipse. The campsite is around 9,000 feet in elevation and they hope to beat any smoke in the air.