Friday, August 11, 2017


     Do plants and animals respond to a solar total eclipse? Viewers in 2017 should look for fireflies, crickets chirping, and other evening sounds that may accompany the  darkness of totality of the solar eclipse. Grazing cattle head back to the barn, birds quit singing, chickens go to roost, bees head back to the hive, and frogs begin to croak, possibly reacting as if sunset were occurring.  In the plant kingdom, Anemone, Morning Glories, Poppies, and Crocus will have flowers closing (narcissist) when the Sun sets while Evening Primrose start to open flowers and Night Violets release more scent. Once the eclipse passes, all, both plants and animals return to normal daily activities. Most of these reports were not complete research, just mere observation of activities around individuals.www.eclipsewatch.In
     Astronomy needs systematic studies to decide whether these plant and animal reactions during the solar eclipse were simply a diurnal approach to darkness and cooling temperatures or an innate instinctive mechanism by plants and animals concerning an unusual event. Research on dogs has shown that dogs and some other animals can detect certain natural phenomenon like earthquakes. However, it was found that dogs can hear low frequency waves that humans cannot detect. Actually dogs and cats are animals that are not thought to respond at all to eclipses. The question remains whether the plant and animal behavior is triggered by the right cues or is it their animal instincts.

     Dr. Doug Duncan, director of the Fiske Planetarium, professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences at University of Colorado, has information on llamas lining up around solar eclipse viewers in Bolivia in 1994. No one knew where they came from and they left about 5 minutes after the totality. Dr. Duncan also has seen from a boat approximately 5 minutes before solar eclipse totality at the Galapagos Islands in 1998, whales and dolphins surfacing around the boat. They left 5 minutes after the totality. It is difficult to mark cues for this behavior. Duncan commented that animals can “freak out” or react just like humans who scream, shout, and do other strange things. It might be something to watch out for?

Composite picture –Wolf howling at the total eclipse?

     For the August 21st total solar eclipse, new research is going to check on some animal behavior. Dr. Rod Mills and Dr. Dan Sudbrink, APSU, are working with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies to observe animal behavior during the eclipse. Dr. Mills is watching cattle, and Dr. Sudbrink is studying crickets.   The California Academy of Science, Solar Eclipse 2017: Life Responds project, is asking viewers to record and/or photograph plant and animal activities and send them the information. Check website
     Citizen research is helping in many areas for the August 21 solar eclipse. The Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment aims to capture images of the inner solar corona using a network of more than 68 telescopes operated by citizen scientists, high school groups and universities. CATE is currently a joint project involving volunteers from more than 20 high schools, 20 universities, informal education groups, astronomy clubs across the country, 5 national science research labs and 5 corporate sponsors.  The goal of CATE is to produce a scientifically unique data set: high-resolution, rapid cadence white light images of the inner corona for 90 minutes. The   Citizen CATE is sponsored by Sky and Telescope Magazine. Check website
     More total solar eclipse information will be coming soon. –Dan Slais

Dan Slais is a retired 8th grade earth science teacher from Waynesville, MO.  He has taught Astronomy and Geology for Columbia College and has worked as a seasonal National Park Ranger for seven seasons.  

Join us August 18-21, 2017 for Midnight at Noon, a four day music festival and eclipse viewing event in Owensville and Rosebud, MO.  For more information click HERE

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     Part of the experience of seeing the total solar eclipse is to be in the right place at the right time. With all the information provi...