Three expeditions are planning to leave Salt Lake City for Mexico to view the total eclipse of the sun in July, says Patrick Wiggins at the Hansen Planetarium.

Among groups planning trips are the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, Utah Valley Community College and the planetarium. It will be "the best solar eclipse of this, or the next, century," said Wiggins.In order of increasing price, the trips are:

- A quick down-and-back expedition for those on a tight schedule. Leaving from Salt Lake International Airport around 11 p.m. on July 10, the day before the eclipse, the group will land at La Paz International Airport at Baja, California, Mexico.

The eclipse can be viewed from the airport that day, or participants may travel around La Paz. The chartered flight will depart La Paz late that night, arriving in Salt Lake City early the morning of July 12. Cost of this flight is $499 each.

- Five days to Cabo San Lucas, at a cost of $795, including transportation and accommodations.

- Five days in La Paz, at a cost of $995 each, including round trip air fare and accommodations.

The longer expeditions are intended for an in-depth study of the heavens or a mini-vacation, Wiggins said.

A solar eclipse is one of nature's most awe-inspiring displays. Joseph Bauman, the Deseret News' environmental specialist, who viewed total eclipses in 1970 and 1979, will report on the Utahns' one-day flight to Baja.

During the period of totality, the moon is a dark disk hung in the twilight sky, and around the disk billows a halo that is wavy, wide and misty. This is the sun's corona, which is always hidden in the light that flares fiercely from the orb and hides the corona from view at all times - except during total eclipses of the sun.

"You can actually see the solar corona and the red prominences (flares from the sun) with your naked eye. During the totality, you don't need any special sun filters to look," said Lowell Lyon, a member of the astronomical society.

Nobody should look toward the sun with the naked eye at any time, with one exception: during the totality period of a complete solar eclipse. "It won't hurt your eyes during the total phase."

Those interested in attending should contact Wiggins at the planetarium, 538-2104, extension 244.