BY MIKE LYNCH
On Thursday, it’s solar eclipse time in Northeast Pennsylvania.
It’s been a while. The last one was Aug. 21, 2017. Here in NEPA, it was a partial eclipse but in a strip from Oregon to South Carolina it was a total eclipse. Maybe some of you were somewhere along the totality path. My wife and I and some wonderful friends watched it from a farm outside Ravenna, Nebraska. That was one of the best days of my life! If you ever get a chance to see one, do it! Words can’t describe the experience.
On Thursday, we won’t have a total solar eclipse, but we’ll have a good partial solar eclipse around here. If you want to see a total solar eclipse that day, jump on a plane to either eastern Russia, the Arctic Ocean, western Greenland or eastern Canada. It won’t be quite a total eclipse in Nova Scotia. (Remember that line in 1970’s Carley Simon hit, “You’re So Vain?”)
Anyway, where it is totally eclipsed, it’s an unusual total eclipse. The moon’s disk will be too small to cover the entire disk of the sun. This is called an annular total solar eclipse. The moon’s disk isn’t large enough because the eclipse is occurring during the moon’s monthly maximum distance from Earth. During totality, the sun looks like a bright doughnut.
Many portions of the northern and eastern United States will see a partial eclipse. We’re lucky to be included, although it’ll be a very short eclipse. In Pottsville, the eclipse will begin about 4:40 a.m. Don’t set your alarm for then because obviously, the sun won’t be up by then! By the time the sun rises at 5:35 a.m., the sun will already be more than 60% covered on the left side of the sun’s disk! The peak of the eclipse will be at 5:50 a.m. for us, but by a little after 6:32 a.m. it’ll be all over as the moon’s disk backs out.
As it is with any eclipse, you never want to stare directly at the sun! You could easily do permanent damage in a very short time. With binoculars or a telescope, you could go permanently blind in less than a second — the only way to view it directly is with special eclipse glasses. Maybe you still have a pair around the house from the 2017 eclipse. If you don’t have those glasses, another way to view it is the projection method. Hold a piece of white cardboard with a pinhole in it over another piece of stiff white cardboard. White fiberboard works well, too. The best and safest way to aim the piece with the pinhole at the blank card is to stand with your back to the sun and hold the pinhole piece back toward the sun. Use the shadow of the cardboard to aim it over the black cardboard and you should be able to see the eclipse with absolutely no danger. It really works!
Mark your calendars for April 8, 2024, for a major United States total eclipse. If you’re like me and don’t mind traveling a bit to see a total solar eclipse, there will be a broad band of totality from Texas to New England. It’ll almost be a total eclipse in Pennsylvania, but if you can, jump in the car and travel to totality.
Lynch, an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.