Of Particular Significance

A Solar Eclipse Tomorrow (Sunday)

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 11/02/2013

Appropriate for General Readership

Tomorrow there will be a solar eclipse (i.e., the moon will pass between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s light.) Those of us on the east coast of the United States who wake up to a clear sky at dawn will see the rising sun partially eclipsed, as much as half blocked in many places. [Don’t forget that in the US the clocks are changing tonight, so dawn is one hour earlier, as the clock tells it, than it was today; in New York City sunrise is at 6:30 am tomorrow.] Meanwhile, a substantial partial eclipse will be visible across most of Africa, and a less substantial one in parts of southern Europe.  And a little sliver of central Africa will be fortunate enough to see one of nature’s most extraordinary spectacles: a total eclipse of the sun, where for a couple of minutes the sky suddenly goes almost dark, the stars come into view, and the pink prominences and silvery corona of the sun glow and shimmer in the darkness of the moon’s shadow.

Really, this ought to have been scheduled for Halloween.  Because if you didn’t know to expect a total solar eclipse, and you didn’t know what was going on, there’d be nothing more terrifying.

Remember: Except in the truly dark heart of a total eclipse, looking at the sun for even a few moments can destroy your eyes; either use specially designed “eclipse glasses” (ordinary sunglasses are completely unsafe) or use a pinhole in a piece of cardboard to project the sun’s image onto a piece of paper or a wall. [As I described here, carefully placed binoculars pointed at a piece of paper or wall will work too — but do not look through them!!! just let the sun’s image go through.] For those watching at sunrise, if there is cloud or haze in the east that dims the sunlight, you can look for a few moments — but make it very quick!

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4 Responses

  1. You know…I get the physics of not staring at the sun except during totality, but I never hear modern day reports of locals getting blindness from their solar events. Because not everyone gets the word and they WILL notice the event and look. Just wondering.

  2. Welder’s glasses can be safe as well, though you should check the rating. They come in different shades, and the lightest (for TIG welding) won’t provide much more protection than normal sunglasses. You want a #14 shade or darker.

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