Monday's letters: How to protect your eyes from the solar eclipse

Monday's letters: How to protect your eyes from the solar eclipse

On Aug. 21, the entire viewing area will be plunged into darkness.

Tens of millions of Americans have an exceedingly rare opportunity this month.

What if I Miss It?

After the thrill of an eclipse you can't wait to do it again (I've now seen six total solar eclipses), but wait you must until that exquisite alignment of sun, moon and Earth comes around once more.

On Aug. 21, the first total eclipse of the sun in the USA since 1979 will sweep across the country from OR to SC, with the rest of the country witnessing a partial eclipse. Damage can occur without pain, and it can take a few hours or even a few days after viewing the eclipse to have symptoms of damage, which include not being able to see colors as well and loss of central vision, with only side vision remaining. Note that a total eclipse of the sun is similar to our day-night cycle, only very much faster. Partial eclipses are when the moon passes in front of a portion of the Sun; this results in a percent of the Sun's total light being temporarily blocked, unlike in the more stunning and unusual annular and total solar eclipses.

The ancient Vikings, he said, believed that giant wolves chased the sun and moon and when they caught them an eclipse happened.

But - assuming you're not an astronomer - why should you make the same pilgrimage?

You can also make your own simple and low-priced pinhole projector to safely view the eclipse. But the last 15 minutes or so bring sharpening shadows, changes in the light, sometimes cooling winds and a darkening sky.

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Total solar eclipses will cross the continental US twice more in the next 30 years, on April 8, 2024, and August 12, 2045. Blair said the sun will not be fully uncovered again until 3:58 p.m.

The last bead gleams so brightly around the moon's silhouette, as the sun's spiky corona becomes visible, that the eclipse looks like a diamond ring in the sky. "Also make sure to watch for motorists who may be slowing or stopping and pedestrians standing near or on the roadway trying to view the event". The corona is the same brightness as the full moon and is equally safe to look at with the naked eye. And then I watched the moon's shadow rush away eastward, dissipating, and the birds and animals reawoke.

But to see these dramatic glories, you must travel into the zone of totality, which traverses parts of 14 states. As soon as you start seeing the moon phasing out of that totality, you need to get the glasses back on. If the sky is clear, you are guaranteed to find it worthwhile.

Staring at the sun during an eclipse with uncertified glasses can cause solar retinopathy, which can mean permanent eye damage, according to an AccuWeather article.

The college will have a solar telescope set up on campus the day of the eclipse for people to view it. "Anyone in the path of totality will see it for about 2 ½ minutes, but the strength is in the network".

"We have no idea how many observations we are going to get, but we'll take as many as we can", Ricard said.

The moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun. The safety of satellites in orbit, power lines on Earth and even passengers in airplanes, especially those on polar routes, may depend on our knowledge of solar eruptions.

But the most important scientific outcome from this year's eclipse may be more fundamental: inspiring a 7- or 8-year-old girl or boy somewhere to enter a career of science, perhaps even leading to a fantastically wonderful discovery 20 or 30 years from now. It might just be the key to some hitherto unimaginable breakthrough benefiting all the people of the world.