Skip to content

Be prepared for the eclipse

A woman looks at the Sun through binoculars that have been fitted with solar filters. Binoculars and telescopes can only be used to look at the Sun when used with solar filters specially designed for that purpose. Photo courtesy of NASA/Ryan Milligan

By PJ Martin

Editor

The Herald-News

 

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America beginning over the South Pacific Ocean. The first place on the continent of North America that will have totality is Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT.

A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon completely covers the face of the Sun. To view it in its entirety, you must be within a narrow path of totality. In that path, after the eclipse begins, the temperature will drop due to less solar energy from the sun hitting the earth and as the solar energy decreases, the Moon’s shadow may cause the wind strength and direction to change slightly.

With darkness (night) coming early, animals will change their pattern. Songbirds will go to their nest and birds such as owls which are nocturnal may appear. Chickens may go to roost, because they view it as night.

According to NASA charts, the eclipse can be seen fully at Paducah, Kentucky beginning the process of eclipse at 12:42 p.m. with the full eclipse at 2 p.m. and the maximum eclipse point at 2:01 p.m. and then by 3:18 p.m. be completed.

The moment the edge of the Moon covers all of the Sun is called the second contact. When covered by the Moon, you may see a thin, red layer of the Sun’s atmosphere around the Moon’s dark shape. This is called the chromosphere.

A portion of the NASA Eclipse Explorer map. To see the entire map visit go.nasa.gov/EclipseExplorer and learn what will be visible in different areas, see a prediction of the corona, compare this path to previous eclipses, and more. Photo courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Safety

Safety is the number one priority when viewing a total solar eclipse. It is never safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing. To view any part of the bright Sun with a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope will immediately damage your eyes. You must have a special solar filter over the front to safely view the eclipse.

Think of a welder’s helmet as an example. You must view the light from the weld through special dark lenses in the helmet. It’s the same situation when viewing an eclipse.

The phenomenon of “eclipse blindness” has been known since ancient time, but is it folklore or fact? According to B. Ralph Chou, a professor emeritus of optometry at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, “Though it sounds like an old wives’ tale, there are more than 100 documented cases of serious and permanent eye damage that was due to people staring too long at a solar eclipse. However, this type of damage, called solar retinopathy, will not typically make a person completely blind.”

Chou explained, “The light-sensitive cells that provide detailed color daylight vision, such as the cone cells, absorb light via photoreceptors and then translate that signal into an electrical impulse that is sent to the brain and perceived as a visual signal,” Chou said. But during a solar eclipse, “There’s so much light hitting those cells that it actually disrupts the parts of the light-sensitive cells that are responsible for that transduction into a nervous signal,” Chou said.

It is important to note that eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses. No matter how dark the sunglasses are, they are not safe for viewing the Sun.

This sequence of eleven images shows the progression of a total solar eclipse. This one occurred in Madras, Oregon, on Aug. 21, 2017. Photo courtesy of NASA//Aubrey Gemignani

Myths, Legends, and Superstition

Eclipses can cause fear, inspire curiosity, and are connected with many myths, legends, and superstitions. Even today, an eclipse of the Sun is considered a bad omen in many cultures.

In ancient Greece, it was believed that a solar eclipse was a sign of angry gods and that it was the beginning of disasters and destruction.

Norse cultures blamed wolves for eating the Sun as the cause of an eclipse.

Inuit folklore tells of the Sun goddess Malina walking away after a fight with the Moon god Anningan. A solar eclipse happened when Anningan managed to catch up with his sister.

In some parts of India, people fast during a solar eclipse, because they believe that food cooked during an eclipse is poisonous.

In Korean folklore, it is said that mythical dogs are trying to steal the Sun.

Vietnamese folklore says a solar eclipse is caused by a giant frog eating the Sun.

Italy believes an eclipse is a good omen and believes that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colorful than flowers planted at other times of the year.

The Tewa tribe in New Mexico believed that a solar eclipse meant the Sun was angry and had left the sky to go to his house in the underworld.

 

Future eclipse charts found at https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment