This Summer’s Solar Eclipse

Kasia K.

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The year is slowly coming to a close, and summer is quickly approaching. This summer, there will be a total solar eclipse visible in the United States on August 21. No solar eclipse has been seen since 1979, and this is the first eclipse that will be exclusively seen within the United States, giving it the name “The Great American Eclipse”.

In a solar eclipse, the moon passes in front of the sun, temporarily blocking it out and letting the sun’s corona be seen. The corona is the outermost layer of the sun, and it displays itself beautifully during a total eclipse as the halo surrounding the moon.
Total solar occur about once every eighteen months, which makes them fairly common in the grand scheme of things. However, they do not always occur in convenient locations. For example, the most recent one occurred on March 9, 2016, but it happened to be in Indonesia- not terribly close by. Annular solar eclipses and partial solar eclipse, which are less impressive that total eclipses, as less of the sun is covered, occur far more often, but are still usually annoyingly far away. The most recent one was just last February, but of course it happened to be in Chile. That it why this eclipse is causing such a fuss in America. There are 12 million Americans living within the 70-mile “path of totality”, where the total eclipse will be seen, and about 25 million Americans living within driving distance of it. Throughout the rest of America, partial eclipses will be visible, letting millions of people experience the eclipse without having to hike halfway across the world.
So how does Buffalo stand? Take a look at this map:

(Thanks, https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/nation/ ! All information in the following paragraph comes from this website as well.)

Buffalo is, unfortunately, a bit too far North to see a total eclipse, but we will see an eclipse of about 0.75 magnitude, where about 75% percent of the sun will be covered. The time of first contact, when the moon first touches the sun, is at 17:10 Universal Time (UT), or at 1:10pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), and the time of the fourth and final contact will be at 19:50 UT or 3:10 EST. The time when the sun will be the most eclipsed will be at 18:35 UT or 2:35 EST.

But before you all go rushing out to see this amazing event (hey, 75% is a whole lot more than the 0% we usually see), please remember, you will be looking at the sun. This is fairly dangerous to your health, and so please use caution when intently staring at that giant flaming ball of high-energy radiation. A full guide to not blinding yourself is available at this link, but here are some basic tips:

  • Don’t look directly at the sun, even when it’s mostly covered by the moon.
  • To actually directly look at the eclipse, use some sort of solar filter. You can buy some from various online sources, or you can also use a homemade pinhole camera, but here you won’t be seeing the eclipse directly- just a projection of it.
  • Even if you’re wearing a solar filter glasses or something similar, do not look through binoculars, telescopes, etc. without placing a special filter on them as well. Turns out that trying to magnify the cancer-causing death rays that regularly emanate from our sun into our eyes is an even worse idea than it sounds.

So save the date! August 21, 2017 is looking to be a great day, especially if any of you happen to be traveling South at the time. I know that I will be outside and ready to go, super hyped to see this awesome phenomenon.

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