Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that August 21 will treat much of the United States to a partial or total solar eclipse. The total eclipse will be visible along a path stretching from the Oregon-Washington border all the way to South Carolina.
But even if you’re not on the path of totality, you’d have to be in northern Maine to see more than half of the sun during the eclipse. New York City is more than 600 miles from South Carolina, but we will still have more than 70 percent of the sun hidden.
Instead of repeating all the details – or warning you again not to look at the sun unprotected – we here at Ars are simply going to urge you to stop what you’re doing and get outside if you’re anywhere in North America . Even when it is cloudy. Even if you’re not organized enough to get your hands on eclipse glasses.
I was lucky enough to have been to California for a partial solar eclipse in 1994, and I can assure you it is truly memorable. There’s something about the light that’s a bit surreal: dimmed like it’s a sunset, but without the orange glow coming from above. While my conscious brain was fully aware of what was going on, my subconscious was constantly yelling “hey, something isn’t right here.”
I’d say that even if you don’t have the means to safely watch the sun, it’s worth experiencing. And your timing doesn’t have to be perfect, as the sun’s dimming begins well before the peak eclipse and continues for a while after that.
And if you don’t have the right hardware, there are plenty of others willing to share it. Here in New York City, many museums and parks will hold eclipse viewing events, and the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York lists half a dozen places where its members will share their hardware with the public. So if you want to see the sun for yourself, ask around, and chances are you’ll have options. If you know of any good ones in your area, share them in the comments below.
Here at Ars, we have employees who do just that: go to a local observatory or their children’s school to have a look at the event. Two of our employees drive to where they can view the total solar eclipse. As for myself, I’m torn. I have eclipse glasses and access to the roof of the tallest building in the immediate vicinity. But I’m considering going to a local park so I can experience both the eclipse and others’ reactions to it.
To see how much of the sun is being eclipsed in your area, NASA has a helpful web page.