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Catching Eclipse Fever (with Dante Centuori)

Looking Up is eclipse-ready! Dean chats with Dante Centuori, executive director of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, about the upcoming April 8th Solar Eclipse. The museum is situated on the eclipse's path of totality, making it the perfect destination for Eclipse day.

Homework Assignment:

Take a look at this eclipse map and find out if you are in the path of totality for the April 8th Eclipse!

Email us your eclipse plans at or post them on social media using #lookinguppod

Additional resources referenced in this episode:


Looking Up is transcribed using a combination of AI speech recognition and human editors. It may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Dean Regas: I've totally got the fever.

Eclipse fever, that is. We have the greatest show in the universe coming to the United States on April 8th, and I am pumped. It's a total solar eclipse. Now, I don't know, what's so great about that? Picture this. It's a sunny day, and then all of a sudden, it completely blocks out the sun and you're plunged into a purple silver twilight sky.

The stars pop out, the animals think it's night time, and the people, people go crazy. You're like, scared, thrilled, in awe, yelling, screaming, crying, not exaggerating. Wondering what is going on. And for a few short minutes, the world, the universe, is like you've never seen it before.

Then, the sun pops back out, the world returns to normal, and you're left there thinking. What the heck just happened? And how can I see it again?

From the studios of Cincinnati Public Radio, I'm your host Dean Regas and this is Looking Up.

A show that takes you deep into the cosmos or just to the telescope in your backyard to learn more about what makes this amazing universe of ours so great. Our guest this week is Dante Centuori. the executive director of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, which just happens to be on the path of totality for the next solar eclipse.

All right, what do you think? Did I did I overdo it with that intro? Is that a little too much? Did I hype it too much? No, I did not. I'm telling you, I'm telling you, this is beyond what you can imagine. This is the most amazing astronomical thing you can witness. A, a total solar eclipse. I am not overhyping it.

I have seen stories come around in astronomy that get hyped. This is the real deal. I, I like to look at these social media stories and things that kind of go viral about, oh, look for this in the sky, look for that in the sky. It's the most awesome thing in the world. Like the big ones are comets, you know, meteor showers, you know, an asteroid that's going to be coming close to the earth.

And don't get me wrong, comets are really cool, but we haven't had a good comet. Like a really good comet since like the 1990s.

[Archival Audio]: Tonight on news night, all hail bop, the comet. You don't even need one these to see.

Dean Regas: Meteor showers. We haven't had a really good meteor shower since 2001.

[Archival Audio]: Tonight marks the return of the Leon Meteor shower.

It is said to be the most spectacular shower in three decades.

Dean Regas: And even the number two thing, like if there was something that could compete with a total solar eclipse, there's really only one thing that's in the ballpark but still not in the same league, and that is the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights are pretty incredible.

And seeing a great aurora show is life changing. I've only seen the Northern Lights three times in my life. I've seen the Northern Lights in Canada twice and once in Cincinnati, but it's been forever. It's super rare. But what I like about total solar eclipses way better than all those things, even auroras, is it's guaranteed to happen.

It's gonna happen. There's no stopping it. You can put it on your calendar. You can bank on it. Now, of course, you got weather, which is the bane of the astronomers existence, that's for sure, but you know what's gonna happen. There's nothing on Earth that can stop it from happening. And if you get a clear sky, Everybody will see it if they're in that path of totality.

So, I think there's also something about the rarity of these things. Like, I mean, you can get a partial solar eclipse every couple years, maybe every two, three years or so from one place. But a total solar eclipse Coming through Ohio is pretty rare.

[Educational Video]: When the moon passes between the earth and the sun, we say that the moon is in the new phase.

An eclipse of the sun can only occur when the moon is new. However, not all new moons produce a solar eclipse. The moon's orbit around the earth is tilted about 5 degrees to the plane of the earth's orbit around the sun. As a result, the moon spends most of its time either above or below the Earth's orbital plane.

The moon passes through the plane only twice during each of its orbits. If the moon also happens to be in a new moon phase when it crosses Earth's orbital plane, then a solar eclipse will occur. Most eclipses are partial because new moon takes place just before or after the moon crosses the orbital plane.

Dean Regas: I was looking back at the records, because this is the kind of stuff I do when I'm bored, is I look at the old eclipses. Like, cause people say, well, when was the last total solar eclipse in Cincinnati, for instance, that was the year 1395, we've not had a total solar eclipse in Cincinnati, the city of Cincinnati since 1395.

And so then of course, what's the next question you're going to ask? When's the next one going to be in Cincinnati? I had to dig really hard for this one. I went through the data. I I'm serious. I went through the data through the year 3000 and there was not one total solar eclipse in. Cincinnati and I gave up, I was like, I went to 3000.

That's all I'm going to do. And then luckily somebody a follower went farther because I think I posted somewhere, like I went to 3000. I gave up and they said, why didn't you go a little farther? I was like, what? 3046. That's the next time a total solar eclipse will be in Cincinnati. 3046, man. Why didn't I just go a little farther?

Now this one is not going to go through Cincinnati either. So that's a pretty big drought, 1395 to 3046, but this is going to be about as close as it's going to be in our lifetimes to Cincinnati. So it's going to be going across this kind of diagonal line. And maybe you've seen some of these maps of this, but the path of totality goes from Mexico through Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio.

New York, the Northeast and out through the maritime provinces of Canada. And so that's the thing. You got to be on that very narrow pathway. It's about a hundred miles wide or so. And if you're not in that path, then you won't get total solar eclipse in that path. Yeah, unbelievable joy. It's so awesome.

[Educational Video]: As a total eclipse begins the moon shadow approaches from the west, the chill, and the sweep of the moon.

Shadow rushes across the landscape at over 1600 kilometers per hour. Totality is a phase of the eclipse when the light from the sun is completely blocked from view. The darkness of totality resembles evening twilight affecting living things. The sky near the horizon still appears bright, but sunlight seems gray and weak.

Dean Regas: And then the precision of this thing, that's the other part about it that really gets me, is that we are in the place in the solar system, on the earth, where the moon and sun appear to be the same size in the sky. The moon is way closer to us, and the sun is way bigger than the moon. Two objects in space may appear to be the same size if their distances and diameters are proportional, and if they are viewed from the same position on Earth.

The diameter of the sun is 400 times larger than the diameter of the moon, but the sun is also 400 times further away from the Earth than the moon is from our planet. So the two appear to be the same size in the sky. Sometimes.

Sometimes the moon is farther away from the Earth and it's not big enough to block out the sun. And that's what happened back in October where we had a ring of fire eclipse that I saw out in New Mexico. Wow, that is so cool! Here we go, Bailey's bead's coming now. Oh, really? It's landing, it's ending. Look along the edge.

Light coming through the mountains of the moon. But then the times where the moon is a little closer than average, then it can block out the whole sun. And that's what's going to happen on April 8th, 2024. And like, I've seen eclipses from really exotic backdrops. Like I've seen lunar eclipses from like Lake Tahoe.

I've seen a lunar eclipse from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where this, you know, the blood moon is up in the sky, while the lava from volcanoes are shooting off in the darkness. And then I've also seen a total solar eclipse from back lot behind a Comfort Inn in Franklin, Kentucky. It didn't matter actually.

I would see it from I don't know, a hole in the ground. I, you, it doesn't, that's the other thing is that people kind of are thinking like, where do I got to go to see it? I want to see it from the most cool place. Wherever you're going to see it, it's the side show. The, the, the show up in the sky is the real show.

So the important thing, it doesn't matter where you see it, just that you see it. And I'm going to keep hyping this man. This is the real deal. April 8th. Well, Dante, thanks so much for joining me today.

Dante Centuori: Hey, thanks. Thanks for having me. This is great.

Dean Regas: So before we get into the big eclipse tell us about one of the most famous little towns in Ohio, Wapakoneta, and its claim to space fame.

Dante Centuori: Yes, Wapakoneta. Oh, actually it was a Jeopardy question not too long ago. Our claim to fame is that it's the hometown of astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Dean Regas: And then it is now the home to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum. How did that come about? Describe it's a design exhibits and, and, you know, kind of the origins.

Dante Centuori: Yeah. The origin of the museum is kind of interesting because the, the state The governor, Governor Rhodes, announced the plans for the museum while the Apollo 11 mission was still happening.

While they're still on the moon, in fact.

[Archival Audio]: For a brief moment, the first men on the moon stand and look at the stark, lonely landscape around them. An experience which no one before them can share.

Dante Centuori: You know, Neil Armstrong's father is Stephen Armstrong. He was an auditor for the state, so he knew the governor, and they had talked about doing something like this, and the governor announced, you know, right there, during Apollo 11, that the state was so proud, they wanted a museum to honor the accomplishments of the mission and Neil Armstrong, and three years to the date of the Apollo 11 landing, the museum opened.

NASA So in three years, the museum was designed, the money was raised. It was built, the exhibits were designed and built in just three years, which is pretty phenomenal.

Dean Regas: I mean, that's incredible. I mean, he wasn't even, you know, back home and they're already planning. And the design is very interesting too.

Cause a lot of people can see it from the highway and it's kind of got this dome set into the hillside. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about the inside. And I think you just had a recent renovation too.

Dante Centuori: Yeah, the architect's vision was that the museum would look like a futuristic moon base, or at least what, you know, folks in the early 70s thought a moon base might look like.

[Archival Audio]: Welcome to the world of tomorrow. The technology of today is already helping us penetrate the silent darkness of space. Man himself has taken the first tiny step into this vast unknown, and we can only imagine what resources will soon be brought back to Earth by these early pioneers.

Dante Centuori: So it was, you know, built with a lot of concrete and a berm was pushed up around it So the facility is looks like it's underground under the dirt here It's grass But the idea is that on the moon all the lunar regolith all the lunar soil would be protecting Your moon base from the cosmic rays the dome in the middle is supposed to represent Something like a greenhouse or some, you know pressure vessel you'd have in the middle of your moon base And your walk, it's a pretty long walk to the museum.

It's supposed to give you that sense that you're walking down this distance. It almost looks like a runway. So it all had that idea of being that futuristic, moon based look, but it's a really cool design from above. You can see the rooms are sort of these like trapezoidal shapes. And inside the galleries kind of wrap around either side of the footprint of the dome.

And over the years we have done additions to the museum, but it kind of fits that shape so that it almost looks like it was the original intent.

Dean Regas: Well, and I got to visit the museum last summer and it's just, yeah, the cool layout, so many different exhibits you have and artifacts you have when you watch your, your visitors, how do kids and younger generations react to the exhibits?

Dante Centuori: Well, kids, you know, kids will always gravitate towards things like the spaceships. They, You know, they're kind of like dinosaurs. There's this big, cool looking thing that is now inert, but at one point was quite dangerous. You know, the space capsules on top of a rocket at one point. The spacesuits also, and those I think because it's so obvious what the form is with that.

It's, it's, you know, it's a spacesuit, you know, and then you talk about how this is used and who wore it and, and, you know, what was the connection with that. And, of course, the moon rock, people still love hearing about something that was from another planet. And the moon rock we have is a pretty decent size, you know, one of the larger ones you might see on display and was actually picked up by Neil on the Apollo 11 mission.

So we have that connection as well.

Dean Regas: And the capsule that you have there, is that from one of the Gemini missions?

Dante Centuori: Yeah, that was from the Gemini 8 mission. That was Neil, Neil Armstrong's first mission. Early in the program, experts sit down and analyze the Gemini 8 flight. They know it is a three day mission.

Its primary purposes include rendezvous in space with an Agena target vehicle, the first docking in space, and a two hour spacewalk by pilot David Scott. Him and David Scott. Flew and became the first successful docking in space. Also the first in space emergency, because soon after docking, a thruster got stuck open, and they started really spinning quite fast at some point.

And it was, Neil was credited with saving their lives there by thinking fast about what to do to try and gain control of the spaceship.

Dean Regas: Wow. I mean, that's just, yeah, that the story of that could have led him to be the first on the moon too, just from that, that, that mission.

Dante Centuori: Yeah. Some, some people say that there were several times when Neil demonstrated in real life how he could handle an emergency.

You could do stuff in simulations and you could kind of predict how someone might perform in an emergency situation. But there were a couple of circumstances where something happened and. He showed what he could do and he could, you know, think clearly and have a cool head. And some people think that that did help.

Dean Regas: Well, we got to get to eclipse day here. You are very close to the center line of the path of totality on April 8th for the total solar eclipse. That means. You lucky ducks, the total solar eclipse will go right over Wapakoneta and the museum. So what are you expecting that day? And most importantly, did you save me a parking spot?

Dante Centuori: Well, it's going to be dark that day, but for a couple of minutes, but yeah, no, we're really looking forward to this. This is one of those events that for people like you and me, it's been on our calendars for years, but for the general public, pretty much in the past year, it's people are like, Hey, I, I'm going to be here.

Really? An eclipse? When is that? You know, but it's very, you know, we're really excited that we're so well positioned because as you said, we're just a few kilometers from the center line. We're going to have three minutes and 56 seconds of totality. We're near I 75. So, you know, it's easy to get to at least it's easy to get to before, you know, everyone's on the road at the same time.

And, you know, really crossing our fingers that the weather cooperates.

Dean Regas: And it seems like the town is getting around a two. I think it's expected to be thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people coming on in.

Dante Centuori: Yeah, the fairgrounds is doing stuff. They're having an event there and also they have their RV camping spaces, the golf courses in town, pretty much almost every.

site that has, you know, sizable acreage is trying to, to plan something. And, you know, we hope the weather cooperates. It's a tough time of year, weather wise in Ohio, pretty much. You could have any type of season in early April in Ohio. Indians have had snowed out games. The guardians have not had a snowed out game yet.

Anything could happen. And we're just. Just hoping that we got clear skies for that time.

Dean Regas: Well so, I need your help with one thing. It's you know, how can I encourage people to leave beautiful cities like Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville, Detroit and places that will not get totality to travel on April 8th You And to go to places like the Armstrong Museum to see totality.

What's, what, how can I get people out of the city and, and into totality?

[Educational Video]: The path that the moon shadow makes over the earth during a total eclipse is called the path of totality. To see a total eclipse, you must be in the path of totality.

Dante Centuori: Yeah, you know, people might think that they're close enough or it's like, well, it's going to be 95 percent covered and it's pretty close to, but for a total eclipse, it's either total or it's not.

And I've had the privilege of seeing one total eclipse before in my life. And it's just so hard to describe how, I mean, you're just speechless when actual totality comes and you just want to. Tell people this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity and you want to do everything you can to see a total eclipse with your own eyes and not just see the Corona and all the other effects, but just to feel everything that kind of happens around you as totality approaches and leaves.

I've talked to some people and they're saying, you know, I think it was, I think I was in a total eclipse one. And you're like, no, you weren't. If you're sitting there going, was I, or wasn't I, you were not in a total eclipse.

Dean Regas: Oh yeah. I think there's a lot of people from in the nineties, we had the almost total eclipses and they think, oh yeah, that was it. I was a kid. I saw that. No, yeah. It's either you do it or you don't. And yeah. So whether permitting, I may come on up there. I think it's going to be a fun time.

Dante Centuori: Oh yeah.

We'd love to have you up here, but I understand you got to, you know, chase the eclipse there and chase the weather. Oh yeah.

Dean Regas: I'm a fair weather eclipse chaser. You know, my philosophy is everybody for themselves that day.

Dante Centuori: Yeah, yeah.

Dean Regas: But my hope is that I will be up there and see you guys cause it's going to be a great, great experience.

And to see it there with the Armstrong museum, ah, it's just perfect. So I hope you have clear skies that day. And this has been awesome. Thanks Dante for chatting with us. This is going to be good.

Dante Centuori: Yeah. Yeah. I'm just counting down the new moons until April 8th. I

Dean Regas: know. I know. And then you got to think of life afterwards.

Nah, nah. That's just April 8th. It's all about that.

Dante Centuori: It's everything before April 8th and after April 8th. That's what it is.

Dean Regas: Well, thanks again for chatting with us. This has been a lot of fun.

Now, I've always loved maps, like even back in second grade, it was like the one year that I went to a Montessori school. Man, I made so many maps. I think the teachers thought I was like obsessed and I was gonna be some kind of cartographer, but as an adult, an adult eclipse chaser, I love poring over those eclipse maps, those like Showing the narrow paths of totality that crisscross the globe and astronomers have them all mapped out every total solar eclipse path for the next 1, 000 years.

So I like looking at these maps and I like imagining traveling to those places like seeing a total solar eclipse from Egypt in 2027, or New Zealand in 2028, or Japan in 2035. I know that the dates and places seem so far away, yet, you know, why not? Why not just dream about those adventures? The places, the times, seeing eclipses and seeing some pretty cool places along the way.

Let's live in the now, because we have a total solar eclipse coming to Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, New York, in a few short days. So, your space homework is to pore over the eclipse maps for this eclipse. We'll have a link to the best one on our website. Check it out. See if you're in the path of totality.

And if you're not, please, please, please, please, start making plans to get there. Take the day off work. I'll write you a note. Seriously, I have an astronomer note that your boss will totally honor. And say this to yourself. Say this out loud right now. I must see this total solar eclipse. Go ahead. I must see this total solar eclipse.

You must. So, where am I going to go on April 8th, 2024? Well, I'm not staying in Cincinnati, that's for sure. Because it's only going to be a 99 percent eclipse. And 99%, as people are saying, it's not good enough. So, my plan is I'm going to be watching the weather, and I'm going to be picking the best direction to go based on the weather.

Where is it going to be the clearest view? Maybe north to Wapakoneta, Ohio. Maybe west into Indiana. Maybe south to Arkansas. Who knows? Oh, man, the chase is on and I love it. Looking up with Dean Regas is a production of Cincinnati Public Radio. It was created by Kevin Reynolds and myself. Ella Rowen is our show producer and gave us all the motivational speech today.

Turn around, bright eyes. It's kind of cryptic. Marshall Verbsky assists with technical support and won't stop singing all the other parts of Total Eclipse of the Heart. There's nothing I can do to stop him from singing that song. Man, I'm gonna hear that a lot. Anyway, I can't get enough of our theme song, which is Possible Light by Ziv Moran.

Our cover art is by Nicole Chance. Jenell Walton is our vice president of content. Ronny Salerno is our digital platforms manager. And Brittany Mayti is our social media coordinator. I'm your host, Dean Regas, and keep looking up!