See You on the Bright Side of the Moon

By Michael Fiorito, MDS

For the first time in 27 years all of North America will be treated today to a Solar Eclipse. During the 2017 Solar Eclipse the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s corona will stretch from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.

The first place the eclipse will occur–the West Coast–also happens to be epicenter of U.S. solar energy generation.

For example, California’s power grid reported about 6,400 megawatts of power generation from solar a little after 9 a.m. local time—about 20% of the total. But that has been falling precipitously as the moon started obscuring the sun Monday. Grid operators have said there is no need to panic. They know it is coming and say they are ready.  And the fact is that solar power has been rapidly growing in the United States and elsewhere. 

According to experts, grid operators will be prepared for the next eclipse in 2024 and plan to have plenty of backup for cloudy days–or days when the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

Who Can See It? 

While most people in North America will able to see a partial eclipse, you  must be in the path of totality–where the moon fully covers the sun for a short few minutes–to see a total eclipse.  The path of totality is a relatively thin ribbon, around 70 miles wide, that will cross the U.S. from West to East.  The first point of contact will be at Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Totality begins there at 10:16 a.m. PDT.  Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.  The total eclipse will end near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT.  From there the lunar shadow leaves the United States at 4:09 EDT.  Its longest duration will be near Carbondale, Illinois, where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds.

Safety Tips

According to NASA, looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight.

Refer to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page for a list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products.