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.
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.”
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.
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:
Astronomer Bob Berman total solar eclipse audio
Writer Annie Dillard reads from her experience of a total solar eclipse