A rare total solar eclipse will bring complete darkness to the US on August 21st this year.
For the first time in 99 years, from the east coast to the west coast, a rare total solar eclipse will black out the USA. From Oregon to South Carolina, a 70-mile-wide stretch of the country, covering 14 states, will witness the spectacular event for over two and a half minutes. The rest of the country will witness up to 90% of the sun’s chilling disappearance over a period of two hours.
NASA plans to broadcast the entire event live in a program entitled Eclipse Across America: Through the Eyes of NASA. In fact, it will be the most observed total solar eclipse in history. Eleven spacecraft are poised ready to capture images of the eclipse, including three belonging to NASA. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will get a spectacular view, and approximately 50 high altitude balloons will be launched.
Safety when viewing
Experts are warning keen eclipse tourists to ensure they protect their eyes when they witness the rare sight. Looking into the sun will permanently damage your eyes. If you try to look at the slowly disappearing sun, your eyes will initially develop sunburn even with just a glance of a few moments. Any longer, you can develop solar retinopathy which means you can be blind for up to 18 months.
Experts recommend only using solar viewers and eclipse glasses that meet an official international standard (ISO 12312-2). If you detect any damage or scratches on them, they are not usable. Additionally, telescopes, binoculars, and cameras must also be fitted with official filters. Using these items without filters can lead to vision damage several times more severe than the damage done to the naked eye.
What actually happens during a total solar eclipse?
Many types of eclipses occur every year. For example, occasionally there are lunar eclipses, also known as blood moons. Additionally, there are many partial solar and partial lunar eclipses. However, a total solar eclipse happens less than once a year. Also, they only occur when exact conditions occur between the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon.
Firstly, the moon must be new and aligned with a lunar node (a mathematical degree). The Moon must be near perigee, meaning it must be at its closest point to the earth. Lastly, it must form a straight line between the Sun and the Earth.
Fascinating observable phenomena
1. Shadow bands
Wavy lines of darkness and light will appear to dance about on the ground and any walls nearby. This occurs for about a minute before the eclipse hits totality.
2. Diamond Ring
Between 10-15 seconds before totality, and again afterward, the solar corona becomes visible on one side of the sun, making it appear like a diamond ring.
3. The Corona
As soon as the diamond ring disappears, it is possible to observe the Sun’s corona. These are a ring of rays that appear around the Moon’s outline.
4. Baily’s beads
A few seconds before totality, the phenomenon of Baily’s beads appear. Because the Moon is covered in valleys and mountains these act like cracks of light revealing beads of sunlight.
5. The Chromosphere
After the eclipse has reached totality, a reddish glow appears around the silhouette of the moon.
6. Silence and Cold
During the total eclipse, the atmosphere on earth becomes very frigid with cold. The world becomes silent as birds and insects stop singing and chirping when they become confused at the sudden darkness.