GREENFIELD — With the total eclipse just a few days away, a New Palestine man is letting the public know what to expect when the moon makes its prominent journey across the sun April 8.

Norm Dingle is one of 18 NASA-certified solar system ambassadors in Indiana, and one of 900 such ambassadors throughout the world.

On March 30 he shared his experience watching the 2017 Great American Eclipse with a small crowd gathered at the Twenty North gallery in downtown Greenfield, hosted by Hancock County Arts.

Dingle will share his story once again Saturday, April 6 at the Chapel in the Park, at 28 Apple St. in Greenfield, in a free presentation hosted by the Hancock County Historical Society at 3 p.m.

The amateur astronomer shared what it was like watching the last total solar eclipse Aug. 21, 2017 in Hopkinsville, KY at the center of the path of totality.

Hancock County is near the direct center of the path of totality for next week’s Great North American Eclipse, which is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the county to witness the rare event April 8.

Dingle told the crowd gathered at the art gallery Friday about how moving it was to witness such a rare sight in 2017, and how overwhelming the crowds were afterwards.

“It took us 4 ½ hours to drive down there and 14 hours to drive back, in bumper-to-bumper traffic across two lanes,” he said.

“We pulled into a little town where there was a Wendy’s and there were over 30 people in line for the restroom, and the line to take orders was a mile long. Right after they took our order they stopped taking them because they ran out of food,” Dingle shared.

Yet he assured everyone that the hassle was worth getting to experience such a rare and phenomenal event.

For the roughly four minutes the moon eclipses the sun in the path of totality Monday, “the birds will stop flying and the crickets will stop chirping, and other animals will hunker down thinking it’s nighttime,” Dingle said.

“There will be a very noticeable temperature change — as much as 10 to 15 degrees — but the temperature comes right back up as soon as the moon moves out of the path of the sun,” he said.

Dingle said that the eclipse doesn’t cause total darkness but more like a late twilight effect, dark enough to make some planets and stars visible in the daytime sky.

“As soon as totality hits, and the 10 or 15 minutes before and after totality, you just feel different. You see things differently. It’s really interesting,” he said.

Dingle encouraged eclipse watchers to be on the lookout for shadow bands, snake-shaped shadows that appear to move around on the ground during the eclipse.

“They’re not 100% sure the cause of it, something to do with the features of the moon and sun that tend to cast some dim shadows that look like snakes that sort of move around. The best way to see it is to lay a white blanket or sheet on the ground,” he said.

While the moon will completely blocks out the sun for roughly four minutes April 8, Dingle said the period of time during which the moon partly or fully blocks the sun lasts approximately 2 ½ hours — from roughly 1:50-4:23 p.m.

In Indianapolis and surrounding areas, the total eclipse lasts from roughly 3:06-3:10 p.m.

Dingle said the eclipse can be viewed to the southwest, and encouraged eclipse watchers to find a spot clear of trees or other obstacles, like the many sites hosting public viewing events throughout Hancock County.

“Even if it’s a partly cloudy day you should still take advantage of it, because the sun might peek through the clouds,” said Dingle, who was optimistic about having a clear day Monday based on the latest forecast.

To get the full effect, he suggests disabling dusk-to-dawn lights and embracing the experience as day turns to night.

On Friday, Dingle shared a time-lapse video he took of the 2017 eclipse using a telescope. The 10-minute video shows the moon’s 2 ½-hour trip across the sun.

Dingle pointed out the “diamond ring” that appears around the sun as it is fully eclipsed.

“When you see that diamond ring, you’ll actually see craters on the moon. That’s called earth shine,” he said.

“The light from the corona is coming out and hitting the earth and illuminating a huge surface on the moon, so in some pictures you’ll get to see some of the features of the moon in the reflection of the earth back onto the moon,” Dingle said.

He shared that protective eyewear made especially for viewing the eclipse is essential at all times during the eclipse, except during the time of totality when the diamond ring appears around the moon.

“When you see the diamond ring you can take your glasses off,” said Dingle, adding that it is imperative to keep them on at all other points during the eclipse.


Dingle and other experts also warn against looking directly at the eclipse through a telescope, binoculars, camera or other device, even when wearing protective eyewear.

How to best go about that is up for debate, said Dingle, but some suggest placing an eclipse filter or viewing glasses over the lens of the viewing device before looking through it.

“The filter goes on your camera, not your eyes,” he said. “Never ever look directly at the sun, and never point a camera, binoculars or telescope at the sun without solar glasses. It can be damaging to your eyes and can cause blindness. It’s extremely dangerous.”

Dingle warned that welding masks do not offer enough protection and can seriously damage eyes.

He also urged those using solar viewing glasses to make sure they come from a reputable vendor.

“There are a lot of fake glasses out there, especially on the internet, so you really have to be careful,” he said.

Solar eclipse glasses are made to be about 100,000 times darker than ordinary sunglasses since they’re blocking nearly all visible light in addition to infrared and UV beams.

Yet counterfeit eclipse glasses are “polluting the marketplace,” according to a release shared by the American Astronomical Society.

Approved eclipse viewing glasses should have ISO 12312-2 printed on them, indicating they meet the international safety standard.


Hancock County will be a prime viewing spot for Monday’s four-minute total eclipse, which encompasses a viewing range from Texas northeast into Canada. The southeastern corner of the county near Knightstown is right at the center of the path of totality.

The next total solar eclipse visible in the United States won’t occur until Aug. 22, 2044, but will only be visible in Montana and North Dakota, with the maximum eclipse lasting two minutes four seconds.

The last eclipse in 2017 was visible in the continental U.S. from Salem, Oregon to Columbia, South Carolina, with a maximum eclipse time of two minutes 40 seconds.

“There’s an eclipse virtually every month somewhere on earth, it’s just not always visible in North America,” explained Dingle. “It could be visible out in the middle of the ocean or it could be visible on the reverse side of the moon out in space. It all depends on how the moon lines up with the sun,” he said.

After the 2017 eclipse, Dingle applied to become a volunteer solar system ambassador through NASA — the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

He now shares his love of space with others by giving a series of presentations each year. Over the past year, his talks have focused on the upcoming eclipse.

Dingle has been fascinated by science all his life, earning a bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from Purdue University and serving in the U.S. Navy as a reactor operator on nuclear submarines.

He retired from the Navy reserve with 41 years of service, and later retired from his work as a senior software system engineer.

Dingle has been a licensed extra class radio amateur for 55 years, focusing mostly on radio astronomy and astrophotography, and has built a small radio telescope using a discarded satellite dish to observe the sun’s radio emissions.

He encourages Hancock County residents to take advantage of the upcoming eclipse happening April 8 in their own backyards.

“The eclipse is beautiful to look at, so it’s well worth it,” he said.

A number of eclipse watch events are scheduled throughout the county April 8. For information, visit