WHAT IS IT?
The Great American Total Solar Eclipse will darken skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina on Monday and will consist of a stretch of land that is about 70 miles wide. This phenomenon, which occurs when the moon orbits in between the sun and Earth, is only visible from a small area. The people who see the total eclipse are in the center of the moon’s shadow when it hits Earth, and during the total eclipse, the sun, moon and Earth will be in a direct line, making the sky very dark, as if it were night. Since the Declaration of Independence was signed, 20 total solar eclipses have traced arcs around the United States, with the last occurring on Feb. 26, 1979.
HOW TO WATCH
Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse is unsafe, except during the brief total phase of the event, when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. This will only occur in the eclipse’s path of totality, which unfortunately does not run through Turlock. The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun, according to NASA, is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Stores in Turlock that are on the American Astronomical Society’s Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers list have all sold out of protective eyewear, but experts also suggest one widely-available filter for safe solar viewing: welders glass of Shade 12 or higher. This shade is much darker than most welder’s helmets, so if you have one laying around the house, make sure you know the filter’s shade number. Other options include telescopes with solar filters, pinhole projectors and other projection methods. Examples of these and online locations to purchase eyewear can be found at www.eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.
WHERE AND WHEN TO WATCH
Though Turlock is hundreds of miles away from the eclipse’s path of totality, the partial solar eclipse will be visible on Aug. 21 beginning at 9 a.m. The time of the maximum eclipse, where locally, the coverage of the sun will be just above 75 percent, will occur just after 10 a.m., and the partial eclipse will end just before noon. With proper eyewear, the eclipse is visible from anywhere, but for those who’d like to share the experience with others, Modesto Junior College will host a viewing event from 8:30 a.m. through noon, with astronomy instructor Daniel Chase and the school’s astronomy club on hand to provide information.
WHY IS IT SIGNIFICANT?
There is more to the celestial spectacle than many think – many people’s surroundings will change during the brief moments of totality as they gaze up at the sun and moon. In areas of totality, spectators that look at the horizon will witness the colors of the sunrise and sunset around them in every direction. The eclipse will also make it particularly easy to spot Mercury along with the sun’s corona, the area of hot gas that surrounds the sun. The air temperature can also drop more than 20 degrees during a solar eclipse, and this time around, the temperature is expected to drop about 10 degrees. According to PG&E, the eclipse will reduce solar energy in the Central Valley region by about 65 percent, resulting in a gap of about 2,600 megawatts. Other fast-ramping resources like hydropower will account for the gap. At Turlock Irrigation District, energy sources like wind, small and large hydro and thermal plants will replace energy lost from their solar field in Southern California as a result of the eclipse.
MAKE SURE YOU WATCH SAFELY
· - Always inspect your solar filter before use, and do not use if scratched or damaged
· - Always supervise children using solar filters
· - Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking at the bright sun. After looking, turn away and remove your filter – do not remove it while looking at the sun
· - Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device
· - Do not use your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer to look through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device
· - Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device. Attach solar filters to the front of any such device
· - Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly
· - If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses over them, or hold your hand-held viewer in front of them