Today, August 21, 2017, The Great American Eclipse

The total phase of the solar eclipse will not be visible in Manhattan, however, there will be a partial eclipse: 
The sun  will be 73% darkened at peak.The total phase of the solar eclipse will not be visible in Manhattan, however, there will be a partial eclipse: The sun will be 73% darkened at peak.

At about 1:15pm, go outdoors to check for clear skies and to take a deep breath in recognition that today, Monday the 21st of August 2017, is a rare day under the Sun.

We will see an unusual meeting of celestial bodies, which promises to feel like the “music of the spheres.” With eyes shielded by solar viewing glasses, observe the moon move in front of the Sun, eclipse the Sun! A slowly progressing partial eclipse of the Sun begins at 1:23pm. At maximum eclipse, 2:44pm, the Sun will be a crescent of light, 73 percent darkened. That’s 1 hour 21 minutes from inception to peak. It will take another 1 hour 16 minutes for the sun to return to full. The partial eclipse ends at 4pm.

Protect your eyes at all times during this partial eclipse of the sun. Even the best sunglasses are useless for solar viewing. If you don’t have the eye protective lenses required, it will be easy to take turns watching the progress of the eclipse with someone who does, because the changes are so slow that you won’t miss anything. Secure your eclipse glasses over your eyes and take turns looking at the sun and moon duet at intervals, for example, every five or ten minutes.

If the sky is overcast, live-streaming video of the eclipse across America will be accessible all day at and many other venues listed at

Several compelling, informative short videos covering everything from the why of wearing eye protection when looking at the sun to footage of the telescope-equipped jet planes that will record observations are at

Astronomer Jay Pasachoff is working with PBS’s NOVA on a television program, Eclipse Over America, to be aired on public television stations tonight at 9pm.

Let’s be in touch about experiences gleaned by viewers of the partial eclipse as well as hear from those who will observe the total eclipse from the path of totality. I am happy to share this communication from Kevin Collins, an accomplished amateur astronomer, “I highly recommend seeing this event here in the Northeast; partial eclipses are spectacular in and of themselves!”

Opportunities to participate
Today, check all day, live-streaming video of the total eclipse
Slooh –
Selection of venues
Tonight at 9pm.
Eclipse Over America to air on PBS
Source of calculations

Salem, Oregon is the first city on the path of totality.

Salem, Oregon is the first city on the path of totality.

Salem, Oregon is the first city on the path of totality.
Click here to see an animation of total eclipse.

Judy Isacoff


Back in 1925, a solar eclipse passed over
New York City.

An image from a 1925 film of the solar eclipse.

An image from a 1925 film of the solar eclipse.

An image from a 1925 film of the solar eclipse. CLICK HERE TO WATCH

“Astronomers had forecast that the path of totality for the 1925 eclipse would start over Lake Superior, cross Wisconsin and Michigan, hit Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and then cross the northern edge of Manhattan, running through Queens and then Connecticut.

Ernest Brown, an astronomer at Yale, knew that the track of the eclipse would cross through New York City, and actually run somewhat parallel to the city’s street grid, meaning that some observers on one side of a block would see the total eclipse, and others wouldn’t.

While the public buildup to the event created a media circus, astronomers were also plotting their plans for observation of this rare event.

Years before, the American Astronomical Society convened a “Subcommittee on Measurements and Public Cooperation of the 1925 Eclipse.” If scientists could figure out the exact path of the eclipse, and the dividing line between the total and partial eclipse, astronomers hoped to calculate the exact diameter and course of the moon. Gathering these types of precise measurements in Manhattan, where the street grid stood like a blank sheet of graph paper, offered an unexpected opportunity. To help gather more information, researchers turned to public outreach, hoping to turn numerous civilians into observers (Scientific American magazine ran a huge campaign). A number of astronomers implored the public to measure the “shadow bands” where they happened to be watching the eclipse.

A few days before the eclipse, it was predicted that the line of totality would hit somewhere between 72nd and 110th streets. Anything north of 110th Street was guaranteed to see the entire display. (The actual path was right between 95th and 97th streets in Manhattan, and wasn’t perfectly aligned with Manhattan’s east-west streets). Anybody who stayed in this area of uncertainty wouldn’t get the full show, but they would, in the words of one writer, be able to engage in “the excitement of cosmic detective work.”

The New York observers were split into groups of two and three, and were stationed along rooftops spanning 72nd Street to 135th Street on Manhattan’s West Side. At least one person would watch for the moon’s incoming shadow, and another would look for whether the sun was completely covered by the moon, according to a report put out by the city’s electric companies.

The shadow watchers were unable to provide useful data; the shadow travels at an average of 2,300 mph (3,700 km/h), so its approach is very fast and hard to quantify. But the sun observers provided good results.

Everyone above 96th Street saw totality – when the moon completely covers the disk of the sun – and everyone below did not. Thus, the eclipse’s southern border could be pinpointed to within 225 feet (69 m) – the distance between 230 Riverside Drive and 240 Riverside Drive, on New York City’s Upper West Side. In other words, they caught the shadow’s border between two buildings, each on a different city block.

The electric companies, led by the New York Edison Company, also took detailed measurements of how much electrical power people used during the eclipse. Predictably, power use rose when it was dark, but the overall load was lower in some places because industries were closed for the morning. New York Edison Company also stationed 14 photographers throughout the city to document totality.

The eclipse that year was a national phenomenon. In this image Postmaster Harry New is watching the partial eclipse from Washington, D.C.

The eclipse that year was a national phenomenon. In this image Postmaster Harry New is watching the partial eclipse from Washington, D.C.

Truly capturing the eclipse without modern equipment and media proved challenging. To satisfy the curiosity of New Yorkers and the scientific community, numerous efforts were put in motion to both ferry people to better vantage points and help those who couldn’t directly observe the eclipse feel like they were experiencing the great event.

Since the forecast that day called for cooler temperatures, and previous eclipse observations in the 20th century had been marred by bad weather, scientists didn’t take any chances.

A plan was hatched to send a fleet of 25 airplanes packed with equipment airborne-the largest fleet that had flown over the city since the end of the Great War-to both take measurements and broadcast observations over the radio.

In addition, a U.S. Navy dirigible, the USS Los Angeles, was also moored 4,500 feet into the air over Rhode Island and functioned as an airborne observatory.

Special trains were arranged to transport New Yorkers into the path of totality outside the city-Connecticut hotel rooms were booked far in advance, at rates rivaling the weekend of the Yale Bowl-while observers were stationed on the ground within city limits.

Lighting and utility companies placed teams of photographers on the roofs of the tallest apartment buildings on Riverside Drive between 72nd Street and 135th Street. They needed to work swiftly, according to the Times, since the shadow was expected to sweep across the city at 60 miles an hour.

The editor of Popular Science Monthly, Sumner Blossom, said laymen should enjoy “the most magnificent free show that nature presents to man” with minimum fuss: all they needed was a pair of tinted glasses, a piece of smoked glass, an old photographic plate, or even a fragment of a broken blue or brown bottle. And any camera would do.

For those who were busy and couldn’t step away from their jobs, a group of cameraman with the rudimentary film gear of the day set up at Yale Observatory to film the event, planning to send recordings of the eclipse via plane to Manhattan, so movie theaters could show footage of the darkened sky to the curious in time for afternoon matinees.

When the morning arrived and darkness swept across the region in a wave, the ever-moving city took pause. As darkness began descending at 8 a.m. that day, leading to the peak moment of 9:11 a.m., crowds milled about as lights went on across the city, illuminating it as if it was midnight (it would stay dark until 10 a.m.). Cars ground to a halt in the city during the eclipse.

Mayor John Francis Hylan witnessed the event from the steps of City Hall, viewing through a telescope and a piece of frosted glass, and briefly playing the radio, which broadcast the observations of Army pilot Major W. N. Hensley, who transmitted his observations from a plane soaring above Mount Vernon. “The sun may be eclipsed,” Hylan told the crowd, “but New York; Never!”

A crowd of onlookers at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue saw a partial eclipse expertly framed by billowing smoke from the chimney of the New York Edison Company, just across the street. Battery Park was filled with several thousand observers, as well as a squad of cops who, with everyone else gazing skyward, did as well.

The observation deck on the Woolworth Building was filled to capacity. Southbound trains ran empty that morning, and traders on Wall Street didn’t begin their day until 10:45 a.m. The sight of skyscrapers, “masked in the half-light of the eclipse,” were like “grey ghosts.”

Similar scenes repeated themselves in Brooklyn. Schoolchildren were herded onto the Coney Island boardwalk to get a magnificent lesson in astronomy. The same Times article noted that a group of workmen who strained to see the event at Empire Boulevard and Flatbush, who had forgotten to bring special glasses, simply broke a few soda bottles, frosted them over a fire, and returned their glances skyward.

The hills of Staten Island proved to be popular vantage points, with scores of cars parked near prime spots. which was within the path of totality, traffic totally stopped. The telephone company noted that it received no calls in the entire borough for 10 minutes.

The Times noted that in Astoria, a perfect perch to watch the celestial ballet, three stars were visible in the sky and shadow bands akin to heatwaves danced across the sky.

Many descriptions of the event veered even further into the poetic. A Times reporter spoke of the moon, “unpunctual and careless of its route,” eventually moving into position, creating a “jewel of light hanging from a luminous ring.”

The eclipse became a sensation. A famous photo taken from Saugerties, New York, showing the ring of the sun blocked by the moon was widely published and publicized, called “the diamond ring in the sun’s eclipse.”

The lyrical and poetics accounts of Harvard astronomer William Luyten were spread near and far. A partially blind 64-year-old man in Hackensack, New Jersey, claimed that after looking directly at the eclipse, his sight was miraculously restored.

Scientific observations also paid off, with one scientist proclaiming observations pushed science forward “1,000 years.” But perhaps the greatest value taken from the eclipse was the shared public spectacle-the sense that, despite differences and everyday concerns, so many millions of New Yorkers simply paused in wonder at the same time. Those clamoring for a similar public event will need to plan ahead, however.”


(excerpted from Remembering the 1925 Solar Eclipse in New York City  Patrick Sisson
and other internet sources)

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