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Arlington eclipse-watchers, take note

Eclipse viewer

Jeff Alexander is an amateur astronomer who has spent more than a decade holding public-outreach astronomy events in Arlington. Over the summer, he regularly runs public Astronomy Nights in Robbins Farm Park. Once he works out a schedule for this year, you’ll be able to find it here >> Here he discusses the upcoming eclipse.

Warning: It is always dangerous to look at the Sun with the naked eye. Extended time looking at the Sun can lead to permanent vision loss. Use only a certified solar filter that blocks not just visible but also ultraviolet and infrared light.

Telescopes and cameras must be filtered at the “objective” (big lens) side, not the eyepiece, and again, with a full-spectrum filter. Read more about eye safety below and at the American Astronomical Society’s Eye Safety page.

On Monday, April 8, the continental United States will experience a solar eclipse. While a thin swath of the country will see a total eclipse – when the Moon crosses the path of the Sun, temporarily blocking it from view -- in Arlington we’ll see a partial eclipse, with about 93 percent of the Sun blocked at the time of greatest eclipse. All you’ll need to see it is a clear view to the southwest and a pair of certified safe eclipse glasses.

Starts here at 2:16 p.m.

The eclipse starts in Arlington at 2:16 p.m., when the Moon, from our perspective, is to begin moving in front of the Sun. The Moon will gradually cover more and more of the Sun, reaching a peak of 92.87 percent at 3:29 p.m.

For much of this time, the Sun will be about 45 degrees up from the ground, or about half-way to direct overhead and in the southwest sky. After 3:29, the Moon continues to move, but off the other side, gradually restoring more and more of the Sun until the last point of apparent contact between the two occurs at 4:39 p.m.

Go outside sometime a few days before the eclipse at the right time to make sure you know where to go to get a view of the Sun.

Eclipse map

You can learn a lot about the path of the eclipse and what it will look like on this site on this eclipse map >> The American Astronomical Society is a great resource for viewing tips. They also maintain a list of vetted and semivetted eclipse glasses vendors.

Eclipse glasses are likely to sell out as we get closer to the eclipse. The Museum of Science in Boston sells eclipse glasses in its gift shop, or you can find glasses that have been certified as safe sold at B&H Photo and Video. Those glasses are all from vetted companies that conform to the ISO 12312-2 standard and take the guesswork out of whether imported glasses will fully protect your eyes or not.

If you have some old eclipse glasses left from the last such event that have been bumping around in a drawer getting scratched, it is time to get new ones.  If they’ve been carefully protected, you can probably still use them – but make sure there are zero scratches, folds, holes, etc., that might inadvertently let some of the harmful light from the Sun through to your eyes. When in doubt, get new ones — you only have so many eyeballs.

Pinhole projector

You can also watch the eclipse with a pinhole projector. A cardboard tube can be used to project an image of the sun, or a cardboard box you hold over your head. Though if you look carefully at the light that is cast through leaves on an early bloomed tree, you’ll see miniature images of the eclipse. Try taking a colander outside and hold it up until you can focus lots of images of the Sun on the ground.

To make a viewer for your younger ones, use a paper plate -- cut a triangle from one point near the middle out to the edges to align over their noses, and cut eye holes the right width apart and up from the nose for their faces. Carefully cut a pair of eclipse glasses in half (don't disturb the lenses) and position the lenses over the eyeholes, securing with tape. This makes it easier to use for small faces, and helps prevent looking around the edge of the glasses if they're having trouble seeing.

Happy viewing, and clear skies! 

This factual information including some opinion was republished Monday, March 25, 2024.

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