What you need to know about the solar eclipse

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The Great American Eclipse is coming this Monday.  While we will not be in the path of totality here in Central New York, we will still get to enjoy the partial eclipse.  It will be worth heading outside to get a look.

There is still some confusion in terms of what we’ll see here and what we need to be on the lookout for.  I will try to dispel some of those rumors and myths.

–          The eclipse begins at 1:17 pm

–          The maximum eclipse begins at 2:38 pm (it lasts for about 2 minutes)

–          The eclipse ends for us at 3:53 pm

We will not see a total blocking of the sun. 

We will see about 68% of the sun blocked at time of maximum eclipse.

What’s causing the eclipse?  The moon moves between the sun and earth.

The sun is roughly 400 times bigger than the moon.  The moon is roughly 400 times closer to the Earth than the sun.  It’s because of this numeric coincidence that we can end up with a perfect total eclipse.  If these proportions didn’t work out the way they do, we wouldn’t see a tidy eclipse like we’re going to see.  

Will the sky turn dark here?  No

The sky may take on a different shade or hue of blue.  Remember, this is happening in the afternoon when the sunlight is passing through a thin slice of the atmosphere.  The amount of refraction will be minimal.  You’ll likely get the sense that something different is going on, but it’s not going to turn dark.  

Is it safe to drive?  Most certainly!

What’s with the solar glasses

There is no special ramping up of solar energy associated with the eclipse.  It’s not dangerous to be outside.  Think about it.  Where do you need to look to see the eclipse?  Right, the sun.  You should never stare at the sun.  Ever.  What the glasses provide is protection so that you can look at the sun.  The retina does not have pain receptors.  You can damage your eyes without even knowing it.  It’s not just the light from the sun, but the ultraviolet light as well.  This is the case everyday.

How do I know the glasses are safe?

The glasses will have ISO 12312-2 printed on them somewhere.  Also, when you look through them, all you should see is the sun.  If you see anything else, DO NOT USE THEM.  Welder’s glasses or a welder’s mask is also an acceptable choice.  All is not lost if you don’t have glasses.  You can watch online at localsyr.com or TV (ABC News will provide live coverage from 1-3 pm along the path of totality)  You can make a pinhole projection and safely project the image of the sun.

What about photographing the eclipse?

I wouldn’t bother.  The maximum eclipse only lasts for about 2 minutes.  Enjoy it.  In this day and age of selfies, etc., we sometimes get too wrapped up in posting to social media and we miss out on what’s happening.  Think about the awesomeness of all of this.  The moon is travelling in its orbit at over 2000 mph and things work out perfectly so that its shadow will cross over populated areas of the earth.  Most times, these eclipses happen over the oceans, and aside from scientists  or fish no one knows it’s happening.

There’s been debate on whether you can damage your cell phone by taking a picture of the eclipse.  My question to you is:  would you take a picture directly of the sun on any other day?  No.  Knowing what I know about all of this don’t risk it.  I won’t.

This is the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979.

This is the first time a total eclipse spans from coast to coast in the United States in 99 years!

Look at the shadows!

            The shadows that are cast will end up showing miniature eclipses.  Do yourself a favor. Walk under a tree and look down at the ground or at the shadows prior to or just after maximum eclipse.

7 years until the next eclipse.  This time we will enjoy totality

The Great American Eclipse will be something to see for sure.  Once it’s over, we can set our sights on April 8, 2024 when the next solar eclipse occurs.  That time, the path of totality will cut across Central New York.

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