[STARGAZING] Safely View the Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse will occur on August 21st. It will be a total eclipse for a 70-mile wide path that will cross the country starting at the Oregon coast and touching 13 other states, ending on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina. Outside of that path, across much of North and Central America, the eclipse will be partial. At Los Angeles, the partial eclipse will last from 9:05 a.m. to 11:44 p.m., and will reach its maximum covering at 10:21 a.m. At maximum eclipse, the uncovered part of the sun will be a blinding crescent, with the moon covering 62 percent of the sun’s diameter and nearly 70 percent of its area.

Do not attempt to view the eclipse without proper eye protection. There are many outlets that sell inexpensive but safe “eclipse shades” that reduce the sun’s brightness by a factor of 100,000 and also block invisible ultraviolet radiation. You can also project the sun simply and safely by poking a small, neat hole in a piece of paper with a pin, and holding another piece of paper a foot or so away in the shadow of the pierced paper. Sunlight passing through the pinhole will form a tiny image of the eclipsed sun on the shadowed paper, which acts as a screen. Light passing through crisscrossing tree leaves also can make overlapping eclipse images in shadows on the ground.

The only time and place it is safe to look at a solar eclipse without the proper protection is from the path of totality, and only during the two minutes or so that the bright disk of the sun is completely covered by the moon.

The Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak on the night and early morning hours of the 12th and 13th. This year, the bright gibbous moon rises at about 10:30, and will reduce the numbers of meteors visible from the usual one per hour that can otherwise be seen from a dark wilderness location.

The brilliant planet Jupiter can be seen in the southwest after sunset, and the golden planet Saturn can be found over the southern horizon when darkness falls. Venus, the brightest planet, appears in the east at dawn and is eye-catching until sunrise.

The moon will be full on the 7th, last quarter on the 14th, new–and causing the solar eclipse–on the 21st, then first quarter on the 29th. It will appear close to Saturn on the 2nd, 29th and 30th, Venus on the 18th, and near Jupiter on the 25th and 26th.

Leave a Reply