Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eclipse Watching Tips from the Experts

Getting ready for the total solar eclipse coming to the United States on Monday, August 21st?

We are! We're super excited about what families will be able to see of this natural phenomenon, whether it's a partial solar eclipse or the Full Monty: a Total Solar Eclipse. The difference for viewers in the United States is that the sun will be partially or fully obscured from view by the moon crossing in front of it, with differing levels of drama.
Tyson, Faherty and Rao discuss Total Solar Eclipse at AMNH Press Conference, Aug 14, 2017

At yesterday's press conference at the American Museum of Natural History, a panel comprised of three scientists: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium; Jackie Faherty, senior scientist and senior education manager, Department of Astrophysics; and Joe Rao, Hayden Planetarium associate and guest lecturer, meteorologist for Verizon FIOS1 News; shared their enthusiasm for the total solar eclipse experience.

As they put it, "On August 21st, we are hosting the shadow of the Moon across the United States."

Each of the three experts recounted their own eclipse viewing experiences, and advised everyone to put a Total Solar Eclipse on their travel bucket list. The goal is to be in the viewing region known as "The Path of Totality" which will be a 70-mile wide band across the United States. Even though the Moon is 400 times closer to the Earth than the sun, and will be moving across the Sun at 1,000 mph, people who can see the Moon pass between the Earth and the Sun when they are exactly aligned will see "Totality," when the Moon fully "blocks" the sun.

If you've already been studying up on your astronomy at the country's many special observatories and planetariums, it should all make sense. This event happens approximately every 18 months, and only lasts a few minutes, but it has not occured within view of the United States since1932.

Computer animation of view from Earth as Moon crosses in front of the Sun. c. AMNH

Eclipse watchers, wherever they are, can use the NASA site to find out what time their viewing spot will be in the shadow of the moon. "It may only last a few.minutes ..." said Jackie, "However, being in such close contact with the Moon (through its shadow), because it's an object we see every day, is awesome."

The museum's panel also reassured New Yorkers -- and others who would not be in the Path of Totality -- that a partial eclipse would be a very special experience, too. Likening it to the passing of the Death Star, Jackie noted that it felt very unnatural to watch something blocking the sun from view. Both scary and thrilling. Each noted that spectators might hear birds chattering and see animals turning to their evening behavior, as if the sun had set earlier than usual.

"Put down your iPhone," said Tyson. "Experience it emotionally, physchologically and physically," he added.

If you aren't going to be in the zone predicted by NASA.gov, here are some fun ways to get out and see it, and what you can expect.

Of course, if you are in New York City, you can check out the many programs the American Museum of Natural History has planned for that day, including a live stream of the event explained by scientists located within the Path of Totality.

Here's a quick video of Joe Rao offering suggestions on how to best view a total or partial eclipse.

Tyson, celebrated host of the PBS show, "Cosmos," had tips for viewing as well. He suggested those without quality eye protection should head outside with a spaghetti colander. If held up to the sun, the drain holes one the colander can serve as pinhole cameras, and project myriad views of the eclipse on the ground, or better yet, a white sheet below you.

Enjoy and let us know what you saw!

Photos & video: courtesy Ron Bozman.

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