During totality, take just a few seconds to tear your eyes away from the sky and scan the horizon. You’ll see sunset colors all around you because, in effect, those locations are where sunset (or sunrise) are happening.
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For a total solar eclipse to take place, the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the sun. Weather permitting, people located in the center of the moon’s shadow when it hits Earth will experience a total eclipse. The sky will become very dark for a few minutes, as if it were night. Normally, when looking at the sun, you can only see the photosphere, the bright surface.
However, extending about 5,000 km above the photosphere is the region of the solar atmosphere called the chromosphere. It is only seen during total solar eclipses, or with sophisticated telescopes, and its red and pinkish color gives the blackened moon a thin halo of color against the greyish corona. People in the path of a total solar eclipse can also see the sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere, which is otherwise usually obscured by the bright face of the sun. A total solar eclipse is the only type of solar eclipse where viewers can briefly remove their eclipse glasses, during the few moments when the moon is completely blocking the sun.
The total solar eclipse will begin over the South Pacific Ocean. Weather permitting, the first location in continental North America that will experience totality is Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT. The path of the eclipse continues from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The eclipse will enter Canada in Southern Ontario, and continue through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton. The eclipse will exit continental North America on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. NDT.
Cool things are afoot before and after totality. Although the big payoff is the exact lineup of the sun, the moon, and your location, keep your eyes open during the partial phases that lead up to and follow it. As you view the beginning through a safe solar filter, the universe will set your mind at ease when you see the moon take the first notch out of the sun’s disk. Around the three-quarters mark, you’ll start to notice that shadows are getting sharper. The reason is that the sun’s disk is shrinking, literally approaching a point, and a smaller light source produces better-defined shadows. At about 85 percent coverage, someone you’re with will see Venus 34 degrees west-northwest of the sun. If any trees live at your site, you may see their leaves act like pinhole cameras as hundreds of crescent suns appear in their shadows.
Cardboard “eclipse” glasses with lenses of optical Mylar cost about $2. This will allow people to safely look directly at the sun. It filters out most of the light, all of the dangerous infrared and ultraviolet radiation, which tans our skin. Buy one well in advance, and you can look at the sun anytime. Be sure you are purchasing legitimate ISO-certified glasses to ensure proper eye protection for direct observation of he sun. Using sun glasses or non-ISO certified glasses can lead to eye injury.
Except during totality, we never look at the sun. But what if you’ve forgotten a filter? You can still watch by making a pinhole camera. It can be as simple as two pieces of paper with a tiny hole in one of them. Try to make the hole as round as you can, perhaps with a pin or a sharp pencil. Line up the two pieces with the sun so the one with the hole is closest to it. The pinhole will produce a tiny image, which you’ll want to have land on the other piece of paper. Moving the two pieces farther apart will enlarge the sun’s image but will also lessen its brightness. Also, a number 14 welder’s glass is another way to safely observe the sun anytime.
Yes, take care of business beforehand. This tip, above and beyond any other on this list, could be the most important one for you. If you wait until a few minutes before totality to start searching for a bathroom, you will likely find a long line. Make a preemptive strike 45 minutes prior.
Bring a chair, blanket, food, and light entertainment while you wait. In all likelihood, you’ll be at your viewing site several hours before the eclipse starts. And while it is April, it is April in Texas and it can get toasty during that time of year. Bring an umbrella or chairs so you can comfortably enjoy the time you will be waiting. And if you see someone who has forgotten sunscreen, be a peach and share. Unless you set up next to a convenience store, consider bringing something to eat and drink. Also, be considerate of those around you. If you bring some music while you wait, that is OK, but please, no music during those precious moments before, during, and after totality.
With the population of our community expected to double quite literally in one day, traffic will be insane! So, you can hop in the car the moment totality is over and just sit in traffic, or you can stick around where you are for a bit. There’s no better time to get together with family and friends and just chat. This will allow a lot of that traffic to get out of the way.