GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – We are now less than a month away from a total solar eclipse which will be visible across the county on August 21, 2017. It is the first total solar eclipse visible from the lower 48 states since 1979.
Although the solar eclipse won’t reach totality here in the East, the sun will be 90-95% covered by the moon. Click here for an animation of how it will look where you live.
Solar eclipses happen when the moon moves between Earth and the sun.
You might think that this should happen every month since the moon’s orbit, depending on how it is defined is between about 27 and 29 days long. But our moon’s orbit is tilted with respect to Earth’s orbit around the sun by about five degrees. Not much, you say? Yes, but the moon, itself, is only about ½ degree in width in the sky, about ½ the width of your pinky finger held at arm’s length. So, sometimes the moon misses too high and sometimes too low to cause a solar eclipse. Only when the sun, moon, and Earth line up close to the “line of nodes”, the imaginary line that represents the intersection of the orbital planes of the moon and Earth, can you have an eclipse.
When the moon does eclipse the sun, it produces two types of shadows on Earth. The umbral shadow is the relatively small in diameter point on Earth where an observer would see a total eclipse. The penumbral shadow is the much larger area on Earth where an observer will see a partial eclipse.
A total solar eclipse, which is what we will see August 21, 2017, happens when the moon completely covers the sun.
If you do plan to view the eclipse, you’ll need to do so safely with eclipse glasses. It’s common sense not to stare directly at the Sun with your naked eyes or risk damaging your vision, and that advice holds true for a partially eclipsed Sun. But, only with special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can safely look directly at the Sun.
NASA recommends that people who plan to view the eclipse should check the safety authenticity of viewing glasses to ensure they meet basic proper safety viewing standards.
Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:
· Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
· Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
· Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses
· Not use homemade filters
· Ordinary sunglasses — even very dark ones — should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers
You can even participate in a citizen science experiment during the eclipse! NASA invites eclipse viewers around the country to participate in a nationwide science experiment by collecting cloud and air temperature data and reporting it via their phones.
The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, or GLOBE, Program is a NASA-supported research and education program that encourages students and citizen scientists to collect and analyze environmental observations. GLOBE Observer is a free, easy-to-use app that guides citizen scientists through data collection.
In order to participate, first download the GLOBE Observer app and register to become a citizen scientist. The app will instruct you on how to make the observations. Second, you will need to obtain a thermometer to measure air temperature.
Observations will be recorded on an interactive map.
To join in the fun, download the GLOBE Observer app https://observer.globe.gov/about/get-the-app. After you log in, the app explains how to make eclipse observations.
To learn more about how NASA researchers will be studying the Earth during the eclipse visit https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/nasa-looks-to-the-solar-eclipse-to-help-understand-the-earth-s-energy-system
Now. we’ll just need the weather to cooperate. If it doesn’t or you can’t get outside to enjoy the eclipse yourself, NASA will be live streaming the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 here: www.nasa.gov/eclipselive
Pierce Legeion is a meteorologist and digital journalist for WNCT 9 First Alert Weather.
Courtesy: earthsky.org & NASA