SOLAR ECLIPSE

 

We are offered the opportunity to observe a Partial Solar Eclipse on Friday, April 8, 2005 in the afternoon here in Louisiana.  Before we give the information on the times and what direction to look, we first want to address the importance of safety while observing a Solar Eclipse of any type.

 

Our Sun is an intense light source and cannot be observed safely without proper filtration. The danger lies in the invisible infrared wavelengths emitted by the Sun.  The human eye does not sense the pain of the retina being burned by this harmful radiation.  We only realize the damage after the fact such as a permanent blind spot or in the worse case, blindness.  Fortunately we are all designed with a reaction called blink and aversion.  Bright headlights, flash bulbs or any other intense light source causes us to close our eyes and turn our heads away.  However, if you intend to observe the eclipse, then you must stare directly at the Sun.  We do not recommend this procedure.  It can only be accomplished if you take great caution and purchase solar viewing glasses manufactured by a reputable dealer.  Rainbow Symphony provides excellent solar eyewear.  You may access them at www.rainbowsymphony.com.

 

In a recent conversation with Mr. Del Woods of Daystar Filters, he stated that welders’ goggles, in his opinion, are not truly safe--even shades 14 or better.  I appreciate his advice, as he has manufactured solar filters for the past 30 years for government, professional, and amateur use.  After all of these years observing the Sun through telescopes and binoculars, his vision has not been harmed.  He understands the intensity of light that the Sun radiates towards Earth and only observes through proper filters.

 

The safest way to observe the eclipse is by watching it on television if your local station airs the event.  A favorite way to observe an eclipse is the pinhole projector.  Look up the instructions on the Internet.  This projector can be constructed for practically nothing in cost (cardboard, glue and a piece of tin foil).  It can be a family project and the best part is that you are not looking in the direction of the sun.  If you own a telescope or binoculars and wish to observe the eclipse then great caution must be taken.  Remember as a child when you used your magnifying glass to start the leaf burning, same thing, except this time it is your eyes.  I cannot stress enough how careful you must be if you choose to use optical devices for solar observing.  There are several reputable dealers that offer safe solar filters that attach to binoculars or telescopes.  Orion is one and you may access them at www.telescope.com and another dealer is Thousand Oaks Optical and you may access them at www.thousandoaksoptical.com. Please do not let the Sun be the last thing you or your family sees!

 

Now the eclipse.  The Moon obscures the Sun's disc because during a Solar Eclipse the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun.  It may be Partial, Annular or Total.  Partial simply means that only a portion of the Sun's disc will be covered by the Moon.  An Annular Eclipse occurs when the Moon is farther away from the Earth (apogee) and does not completely cover the Sun's disc. During a Total Eclipse, the Moon covers the Sun's disc completely.  Total Eclipses are very brief and you must be in the path of Totality to observe this event.  The United States will not have a Total Eclipse of the Sun until August 21, 2017 (time of totality 2 minutes and 40 seconds) and the best place to be is western Kentucky because of our automobile drive time for us here in the south.  On August 21, 2024, our best drive time is to Dallas, Texas, for totality (time of totality over 4 minutes).  If you are anywhere else from the path of totality, you will observe a Partial Eclipse.

 

We have decided to use the latitude (30 degrees north) and longitude (90 degrees west) for New Orleans as a reference point.  If you live elsewhere in the state, the times will only change by minutes as well as the amount of the Sun's disc being covered by the Moon.  Remember that everything is in constant motion in the universe and events in the celestial realm happen very quickly.

 

First Contact          4:21 P.M.   The Moon's darkened disc makes contact and begins to obscure the Sun's disc

Mid- Eclipse           5:14 P.M.   The Moon's darkened disc covers approximately 20% of the Sun's disc

Last Contact           6:07 P.M.   The Moon's darkened disc leaves the Sun's disc

 

Total time of Partial Eclipse, 106 minutes.  Naturally we may only observe this event if we have clear skies.  Many eclipse chasers that have traveled to remote parts of the Earth and at great expense fully appreciate the necessity for clear skies.  So be safe, use caution, protect you eyes, practice your observing procedure before the event and experience the universe in a very dramatic way.