Ready for Monday’s Solar Eclipse?

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Fenton, MI — April 7, 2024

Most of North America will experience a solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024. According to astronomy.com, two to five solar eclipses occur every year. A solar eclipse is an alignment of the Sun, the Moon, and Earth — in that order. The Moon, directly between the Sun and Earth, casts a shadow on our planet. Its shadow has both an inner and an outer part. If you’re in the dark inner part of that shadow, called the umbra, you’ll see a total eclipse. If you’re in the light outer part, the penumbra, you’ll see a partial eclipse.

The only city in Michigan in the umbra or path of totality is Luna Pier. However, most of the State will see significant coverage in terms the percentage of totality. For example, at 3:13 pm, Flint will experience 96.4% coverage of the sun by the moon.

Photo via TimeAndDate

If seeing a total eclipse is high on your bucket list, you may want to travel to a point in the path of totality. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hosting narrated coverage of the event, with NASA scientists on hand to discuss the phenomenon. According to Belgian astronomer Jean Meeus, a particular spot on Earth is in the path of totality, on average, once every 375 years.

NASA has provided an image of the umbra path and details of timing for zip codes across the country. Fenton’s Zip Code, 48430, will experience 97.3% of totality at 3:13 pm Monday afternoon.

Frequently Asked Questions Answered by NASA

How do you safely view a total solar eclipse?
The Sun’s surface is so bright that if you stare at any portion of it, no matter how small, it produces enough light to damage individual retinal cells. It takes a few seconds for this to happen, but afterward, you will see a spot as big as the solar surface you glimpsed when you look away from the Sun at some other scenery. Depending on how long you gazed at the Sun and how badly the retinal cells were damaged, this spot will either fade away in time or remain permanent. You should never assume that you can look away quickly enough to avoid eye damage because every person is different in terms of their retinal sensitivity, and you do not want to risk being the one who damages their eyes just to try to look at the Sun. If you want to see what the Sun looks like, use a properly-equipped telescope or solar viewing glasses. You could also go online and view thousands of pictures taken of the Sun by telescopes and NASA spacecraft!
Why is it not safe to look at the Sun even when only a small part of it is visible?

The rods and cones in the human retina are very sensitive to light. Normally, during daylight conditions, the iris contracts so that only a small, safe amount of light passes through the lens and then reaches the retina. However, the Sun’s surface is so bright that even a thin sliver of its light can still damage the eye if you were to look directly at it. When exposed to direct sunlight, retinal cells will become damaged, sometimes permanently. This can happen even after a quick glance at the Sun, so it is very important to never look at the Sun directly. To look at the Sun, use solar viewing glasses or a property-equipped telescope.

Is it true that you should not look at the Sun even during a total solar eclipse?

When the bright photosphere of the Sun is completely covered, only the faint light from the corona is visible, and this radiation is too weak to have any harmful effects on the human retina. There is a misunderstanding that during a total solar eclipse, when the Moon has fully blocked the light from the Sun, there are still harmful rays that can injure your eyes. This is false. During other types of solar eclipses, viewers must wear solar viewing or eclipse glasses or use an alternative viewing method the entire time, as at least part of the Sun is always visible. During a total solar eclipse, viewers should take those protective measures before and after the Sun’s visible disk is completely blocked. However, once it’s completely blocked – called totality – viewers can look directly at the eclipse without any special eye protection.

How are eyes damaged by staring at the Sun?

Typically, eye damage from staring at the Sun results in blurred vision, dark or yellow spots, pain in bright light, or loss of vision in the center of the eye (the fovea). Permanent damage to the retina has been shown to occur in ~100 seconds, but the exact time before damage occurs will vary with the intensity of the Sun on a particular day, and with how much the viewer’s pupil is dilated from decongestants and other drugs they may be taking. Even when 99% of the Sun’s surface (the photosphere) is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn. Note, there are no pain receptors in the retina so your retina can be damaged even before you realize it, and by then it can be too late to save your vision!

Where can I get the right kind of solar filter to view the eclipse?

For a list of trusted solar filter vendors, please see the American Astronomical Society’s website.

Is it only the bright light that is dangerous when viewing the Sun?

Although solar filters and eclipse glasses safely block the intense sunlight that is known to damage retinas, the infrared ‘heat’ from the Sun can also make viewing uncomfortable as it literally warms the eye. This is why staring at the Sun for minutes at a time even with proper filters can still overheat the tissues and fluids in the eye. The consequences of this heating can be dangerous. To avoid this problem, frequently look away from the Sun to cool your eyes while using filters.

Can I photograph the eclipse with my smartphone?

Yes, but you need to have the specialized eclipse filter between your camera and the Sun. See the American Astronomical Society website for more detailed instructions.

How long will the 2024 total solar eclipse last?

The longest duration of totality is 4 minutes, 28 seconds, near Torreón, Mexico. Most places along the centerline (path of totality) will see a totality duration between 3.5 and 4 minutes.

What does the path of totality mean?

The path of totality is where observers will see the Moon completely cover the Sun.

How much will daylight change during a total solar eclipse?

In the path of totality, where the Moon completely covers the Sun, the sky will become dark, as if it were dawn or dusk. For those who only experience a partial solar eclipse, the sky will appear slightly darker than it was before the eclipse, depending on how much the Moon blocks the Sun in their location.

How big of a temperature drop do you get during a total solar eclipse?

You can expect the temperature to drop about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) depending on the humidity and cloud cover at your location.

What are the stages of a total solar eclipse?

During a total solar eclipse, you will see multiple unique features as the eclipse progresses.

  • Partial eclipse: As the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, at first it does not completely cover the Sun. The Sun appears to have a crescent shape.
  • Shadow bands: Shadow bands are rapidly moving, long, dark bands separated by white spaces that can be seen on the sides of buildings or the ground just before and after totality, though they can be very faint and difficult to photograph.
  • Baily’s Beads: As the Moon continues to move across the Sun, several points of light shine around the Moon’s edges. Known as Baily’s Beads, these are light rays from the Sun streaming through the valleys along the Moon’s horizon
  • Diamond Ring: Baily’s Beads will begin to disappear until eventually, only a single bright spot will remain along the edge of the Moon’s shadow. This bright spot resembles the diamond in a giant diamond ring formed by the rest of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • Totality: Totality is when the Moon completely blocks the bright face of the Sun. This is the only stage of the eclipse that you can view with your naked eye. This stage can also reveal the chromosphere (a region of the solar atmosphere, appearing as the thin circle of pink around the Moon) and the corona (the outer solar atmosphere, appearing as streams of white light).
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images