By Michael Kuhne
As the sun begins to sink down beneath the horizon Thursday evening, the moon will partially eclipse the fiery star and cast a narrow shadow upon the Earth.
“Here you see the moon with the sun behind it, lined up,” Slooh Astronomer Bob Berman said. “It takes us away from our mundane things, our problems in the world, whatever it is, to see the grander picture. I don’t think anyone of any age tires of that, something beyond ourselves, so it’s a nice marriage of science and nature and beauty.”
Unlike a total solar eclipse, which is a much rarer phenomenon to witness in a lifetime, Thursday’s partial solar eclipse will only obscure a portion of the sun and will have varying degrees of visibility based on the viewer’s location, according to Berman.
If you are not in a suitable viewing area, view the partial solar eclipse through Slooh’s live broadcast below.
“Total eclipses give us a lot of science; they’re not only gorgeous, but they’re scientifically useful,” Berman said. “But this is not total, so a partial eclipse is more inspirational for people.”
People in northern New England will not see the eclipse because the sun will set just as it begins. In areas of New York state, only a small portion of the sun will be eclipsed as the sun sets. Those in areas from the Midwest and Rockies to California and into parts of Canada will have a much better chance to view the event as visibility will increase the farther west and north you go.
When we witness a partial solar eclipse every few years, it teaches us the science of celestial motion and how the moon moves through space, according to Berman.
“At maximum, only 81 percent of the sun will be covered,” Berman said. “By and large, no matter where you are, it’s going to be something when the sun is low in the sky in the West during late afternoon.”
However, weather conditions may present viewing issues for some in the West.
“Viewing conditions in the West will not be good across northern California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and western Montana with clouds and showers moving through that region,” AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brian Edwards said. “There will be good viewing conditions across the Southwest and the Four Corners region.”
A front moving through the Midwest and stretching through eastern Texas will produce clouds and a few showers across Wisconsin, Illinois, southern Missouri, Arkansas, northern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, he added.
Better viewing conditions will be seen across the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas with mostly clear skies. Viewing conditions across the upper Ohio Valley will be decent as well with clear to partly cloudy skies.
For those in suitable viewing areas, Berman cautioned about staring directly at the sun during an eclipse.
“We must warn people that even a tiny look at the sun can hurt your eyesight; don’t do it,” he said.
While solar eclipses can provide a better view of the sun for scientists, other interesting phenomenon include the sudden appearance of sharper, crescent-shaped shadows and light projected from the sun’s beams, according to NASA.
Slooh will be broadcasting with the assistance of a partner observatory based in Prescott, Arizona, for this event, organization spokesman Eric Edelman said. The view from the Prescott Observatory will allow those watching this astronomical event to see the sun in a variety of ways, providing a better glimpse of the sun’s corona and gaseous surface, Berman added.
Since the eclipse will occur simultaneously across the U.S., anyone located east of the red line will see nothing due to the setting sun. However, those between the red and orange lines will only see the very beginning of the eclipse as the sun sets. Anyone between the yellow and orange lines will see the eclipse as it reaches its maximum point but will not be able to see the end of the event. Those west of the yellow line will be the luckiest and see the partial solar eclipse in its entirety before the sun sets.