Living With Technology / Watching the Solar Eclipse on Monday Aug. 21
On Monday, Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will occur. It will be visible across North America.
A solar eclipse is when the moon is between the Earth and the Sun and the moon obscures all or part of the sun. Total solar eclipses don’t happen very often and for one to cover a large swath of North America is pretty exciting.
For the best viewing, one should be in the “path of totality,” which generally runs diagonally from Oregon to South Carolina. Two good sites for information about the eclipse are: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/ and www.eclipse2017.org.
During a total eclipse, which generally lasts about 7 minutes, as the moon comes between the Earth and the Sun, the skies get dark, animals can get restless and people generally have a lot of fun.
Here in Westport, the partial eclipse will start at 1:24 p.m., maximum eclipse (approximately 70 percent obscured) will be at 2:45 p.m. and the eclipse will end at 4 p.m.
For astronomers, it’s an opportunity to look at the area near the sun that is not normally visible because of the bright light of the sun. In fact, total eclipses have been used to confirm Einstein’s theories about gravity (of which the sun has a LOT) and its ability to bend light.
If you can’t get to the path of totality, you can still see it through many community organizers including astronomy clubs, libraries, museums, schools and more.
Viewing the eclipse is a different story. Whatever you do, DON”T LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE ECLIPSE! There are a number of different goggles and glasses that people are providing that claim to give you the ability to watch an eclipse directly. I do NOT recommend using ANY of them.
The sun gives off lots of light (visible and invisible) that is not good for eyes. Between the basic brightness of the sun, infrared, ultra violet and other light, it’s very difficult to filter it to a safe level.
To view an eclipse safely, I recommend that people use a telescope that can project an image onto a piece of paper or some other surface so that the eclipse can be viewed indirectly. If someone wants to point a video camera or other device at the sun and let you watch it on a screen, that’s OK, too, although it may damage the camera’s image sensor.
NASA provides a video for people to make their own safe eclipse viewer out of a cereal box. You can watch the video here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/how-make-pinhole-projector-view-solar-eclipse
Find a location that has a good viewing support from professionals who are astronomers or other scientists. Be sure to have your family and friends experience one of the great astronomical phenomenon right here on Earth.
Mark Mathias is a 35+ year information technology executive and a resident of Westport, Connecticut. His columns can be read at blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwithtechnology@