Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that August 21 will treat much of the United States to a partial or total solar eclipse. The total eclipse will be visible along a path that stretches from the Oregon-Washington border to South Carolina.
But even if you’re not on the path of totality, you’d have to be in northern Maine to see more than half the Sun during the eclipse. New York City is over 1,000 kilometers from South Carolina, but we’re still going to have over 70 percent of the Sun hidden.
Rather than rehash all the details—or warning you again not to look at the Sun without protection—we here at Ars are simply going to urge you to stop what you’re doing and step outside if you’re anywhere in North America. Even if it’s cloudy. Even if you haven’t gotten organized enough to obtain eclipse glasses.
Having been fortunate enough to have been in California for a partial eclipse in 1994, I can assure you it really is memorable. There’s something about the light that’s a bit surreal: dimmed as if by a sunset, but without the orange cast and coming from overhead. Even though my conscious brain was completely aware of what was going on, my unconscious one was constantly yelling “hey, something’s not right here” at it.
I’d say that, even if you don’t have the means to safely look at the Sun, it’s worth experiencing. And your timing doesn’t have to be perfect, as the dimming of the Sun will start well ahead of the peak eclipse and persist for a while after.
And if you don’t have the right hardware, plenty of others are willing to share. Here in New York City, many museums and parks will have eclipse viewing events, and the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York lists a half-dozen places where its members will share its hardware with the public. So, if you want to see the Sun itself, ask around, and chances are you’ll find that you have options. If you know of good ones in your area, share them in the comments below.
Here at Ars, we have staff members who are doing just that: heading to a local observatory or their kids’ school to get a look at the event. Two of our staff will be driving to where they can get a look at the total eclipse. As for myself, I’m torn. I’ve got eclipse glasses and roof access to the tallest building in the immediate neighborhood. But I’m debating going to a local park so I can experience both the eclipse and others’ reactions to it.
To see how much of the Sun will be obscured in your area, NASA has a helpful Web page.
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