Sunday, March 10, 2024

Total Eclipse of the Sun


On Monday, April 8, 2024 a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Weather permitting the total solar eclipse will begin over the South Pacific Ocean and hit Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT. This is probably the last solar eclipse to cross North America in my lifetime. The last eclipse I saw was in July 1963, and this is my last shot to see another. I live under 200 miles from the path of totality and should be able to see much of the eclipse from home, but we are in a solar maximum and a few hours drive could yield quite a show! You can watch along with NASA.

The path of this eclipse will move from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse. The eclipse will enter Canada in Southern Ontario, and continue through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton. The eclipse will exit continental North America on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT. We are close enough to drive to see it full on, but the eclipse will be visible all along the northeast corridor. 


The path of totality is where the moon will completely cover the sun making the sun’s corona visible. Viewing of partial eclipse will be possible from a much wider geographic area. This area is about 115 miles wide, In this area looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality and only during the window of complete coverage which is about 4 and a half minutes. Otherwise you must protect your eyes and vision. The only safe way to look directly at a partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers.

Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even  dark ones, are NOT SAFE for looking at the sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight. Eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers must be verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products. Make sure you have real solar glasses. It's not enough today to just look for the ISO 12312-2  certification, because in 2017 many unscrupulous vendors on Amazon were printing fake glasses with ISO 12312-2  certifications. Only buy glasses made in the United States from a vendor on the approved list of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.  You can also view the eclipse on NASA’s web site or through a pinhole projector as we did when we were kids. NASA’s has a diagram on how to make a pinhole projector.

Most of the ‘beauty shot’ photographs you will see of the eclipse will be taken with professional digital cameras on tripods, or shot through a telescope, but the most common photos you will probably see will be taken by the millions of smartphones used by ordinary people to capture this event. Read NASA’s tips and precautions and remember to protect your eyes.

Do NOT use eclipse glasses or handheld viewers with cameras, binoculars, or telescopes. Those require different types of solar filters. When viewing the partial phases of the eclipse through cameras, binoculars, or telescopes equipped with proper solar filters, you do not need to wear eclipse glasses. (The solar filters do the same job as the eclipse glasses to protect your eyes.)

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