EYES TO THE SKY June 26 – July 9, 2017

Choose with open eyes - will you see a total or partial eclipse on August 21?

Jay and Naomi Pasachoff look through partial-eclipse filters before the annular phase of the solar eclipse they observed from Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean on September 1, 2016. 
Photo courtesy of Jay M. PasachoffJay and Naomi Pasachoff look through partial-eclipse filters before the annular phase of the solar eclipse they observed from Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean on September 1, 2016. Photo courtesy of Jay M. Pasachoff

Everyone in the United States will experience, at minimum, a partial eclipse of the Sun on August 21, 2017. In Lower Manhattan, a partial eclipse will be visible.

The following short animations reveal the astronomy, wonder and mystery behind a total eclipse of the sun. These animations introduce what has been described as the most profound encounter with nature possible in human experience.

The first is a 1 minute 14 second PBS simulation that describes the science.

It is followed by a 30-second photographic animation that takes your breath away, produced by astronomer Jay Pasachoff.

What you will see if you stay at home in New York is a partial eclipse that progresses to the crescent phase of the sun – described as “first contact” in the PBS animation – and the return to full sun. Professor Pasachoff offers, “First contact and fourth contact, but not the interesting part, which is between 2nd and 3rd contacts.” He continues, “It’s fine for people to glance through a special solar filter every five or ten minutes during the partial eclipse on August 21, but it isn’t spectacular and nothing changes very fast.”

Count to the 7th shape for approximate 70_ partial eclipse crescent and stop there.Then, loop to the same crescent on the opposite side and follow it back to full sun. Image courtesy of Jay M. Pasachoff

Count to the 7th shape for approximate 70_ partial eclipse crescent and stop there.Then, loop to the same crescent on the opposite side and follow it back to full sun. Image courtesy of Jay M. Pasachoff

To further inform your decision about whether to travel to the path of totality to observe the Great American Solar Eclipse, consider the comparisons between the experience of partial and total eclipse that follow:

“Some people see a partial eclipse and wonder why others talk so much about a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse and saying that you have seen an eclipse is like standing outside an opera house and saying that you have seen the opera; in both cases, you have missed the main event.”
Astronomer Jay M. Pasachoff

 “A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.”
Writer Annie Dillard

In our backyard, the partial eclipse begins at about 1:25pm on Monday the 21st of August, less than two months from now. At maximum eclipse, 2:45pm, the Sun will be a crescent of light, about 70 percent darkened. That’s 1 hour 20 minutes from inception to peak. It will take another 1 hour 15 minutes for the sun to return to full. The partial eclipse ends at about 4pm.

Eyes must be protected from the Sun’s light if you are to look directly at our star or, alternatively, by devising ways to see it indirectly. Inexpensive cardboard-framed sunlight filtering lenses are readily available, as are instructions for creating devices for solar projection: the former illustrated in the Pasachoff photograph that opens this article and the latter in the closing photograph.

 Professor Pasachoff uses a cheese grater to make dozens of pinhole images at the same time. Man on the left wears eclipse-filtering glasses. Courtesy of Jay M. Pasachoff

Professor Pasachoff uses a cheese grater to make dozens of pinhole images at the same time. Man on the left wears eclipse-filtering glasses. Courtesy of Jay M. Pasachoff

Resources:
Jay Pasachoff 1983 quote from http://mreclipse.com/Totality3/TotalityCh01.html
Annie Dillard, The Abundance, HarperCollins, 2016, page 7, paragraph 2
PBS NOVA https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ess05.sci.ess.eiu.totaleclipse/total-solar-eclipse-animation/#.WUyE1kMYvol
Jay M. Pasachoff http://web.williams.edu/Astronomy/eclipse/eclipse2001/2001total/index.html
Three compelling audio clips about total eclipse:
https://academicminute.org/2015/03/jay-pasachoff-williams-college-todays-total-solar-eclipse/
Astronomer Bob Berman total solar eclipse audio
http://wamc.org/post/strnge-universe-052117
Writer Annie Dillard reads from her experience of a total solar eclipse
http://www.wnyc.org/story/david-remnick-speaks-annie-dillard/

Trackbacks

  1. […] Quoted from that edition: In our backyard, the partial eclipse begins at about 1:25 p.m. on Monday the 21st of August…… At maximum eclipse, 2:45 p.m., the Sun will be a crescent of light, 72 percent darkened. That’s 1 hour 20 minutes from inception to peak. It will take another 1 hour 15 minutes for the sun to return to full: the partial eclipse ends at 3:58 p.m. See my June 26 column for more information http://www.ebroadsheet.com/eyes-sky-june-26-july-9-2017/ […]

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