‘A big dose of awe’: Last solar eclipse here, in 1979, changed Seattle author’s life

Bryan Brewer first published his book about solar eclipses 38 years ago to coincide with the last eclipse viewable in the Northwest. His No. 1 tip for those eager to see the Aug. 21 eclipse: Don’t settle for less than totality.

Got questions about the solar eclipse happening Aug. 21? Five seconds on Google will get you more than 10 million results — including interactive maps that zoom in on the zone of totality from coast to coast.

But the last time the Pacific Northwest experienced a total solar eclipse, information wasn’t as easy to come by.

“You went to the library,” recalled Bryan Brewer. “And you did a lot of things by phone and mail.” Among them: dialing up the U.S. Naval Observatory to request pamphlets showing the eclipse path.

Eclipse preparation and viewing advice

• Don’t settle for less than 100 percent. Get yourself into the zone of totality, preferably near the centerline, where duration is longest.

• Expect traffic jams. Up to 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the eclipse path — and Oregon expects 1 million people to converge there.

• Watch the weather forecast. If clouds threaten, be ready to drive to a clearer area.

• Don’t despair if you can’t avoid clouds. They sometimes clear as the eclipse unfolds.

• Don’t photograph the eclipse. Unless you’re an expert, the results won’t be great and fussing with equipment will detract from your enjoyment.

• During totality, it’s safe to look directly at the sun. You can also use binoculars — but only during totality. At all other times, use eclipse glasses or a pinhole projector.

• Take your eyes off the sky for at least a few seconds to scan the horizon for a 360-degree sunset.

• If you’re on a hill, you may be able to spot the moon’s shadow sweeping toward you at more than 1,500 mph. (In Western Oregon, the shadow will move at more than 2,000 mph.)

• For more information: NASA, Space.com, Sky & Telescope,“Eclipse: History….

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