On Aug. 21, for the first time considering that 1918, a total solar eclipse will take a trip coast-to-coast throughout the whole United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. Here UNLV astrophysicist Jason Steffen talks about why this solar eclipse is such a huge deal, what we will see from Las Vegas, and ways to see it safely (No, sunglasses won’t suffice).
What is a total solar eclipse?
An overall solar eclipse takes place when the moon blocks the whole sun, and casts its shadow onto the Earth. Though an overall solar eclipse is the rarest kind, there are other types of eclipses where the moon just obstructs part of the sun (a partial eclipse), or when the moon is not able to block the entire sun (an annular eclipse). This last kind of eclipse happens since the moon’s orbit isn’t really an ideal circle– in some cases it is more detailed to the Earth and in some cases further away. When it is farther away it appears smaller in the sky than the sun and the sub appears as a ring or “annulus”. When the moon is closest to the Earth, and passes between the Earth and sun, then you will get an overall solar eclipse like the one we will see.
Why is an overall solar eclipse such a huge deal?
They are a huge offer for a few reasons. Initially, they just happen over inhabited locations once every couple of years. Before the days of flight, it would be an once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Second, they are something that everybody can both see and value. And, 3rd, they are quite stunning to look at.
What time is the Aug. 21 solar eclipse?
In the Las Vegas area, the eclipse will take place mid-morning, mainly during the 10 a.m. hour. The complete eclipse procedure will occur over about 2 hours from the beginning (ingress) to the end (egress). The totality lasts just a couple of minutes, and you would need to be in Oregon or Idaho to see it at that time. From Las Vegas, we should have the ability to see an eclipse of about 75 percent.
What are we visiting that day?
Throughout an overall eclipse, the moon comes in between the Earth and the sun. With the sun’s light obstructed, you are able to see the diffuse, upper layers of the sun’s atmosphere (called the corona). The corona is enormous in size and is rather attractive. We simply can’t see it since it is less bright than the sun’s noticeable surface area. On the day of, it will get dark (much like an overcast sky) directly under the shadow. The sky will be dimmer during the eclipse, even if it is just a partial eclipse, as though the sun went behind a thick cloud. The sky will not turn completely dark due to the fact that we can see the sky over parts of the country where the eclipse takes place at a various time. So, the sky will still be relatively bright– there will just be less direct sunlight.
Will the whole country be able to see at least part of the eclipse?
Yes, the entire country will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. There is a good eclipse map that shows the percentages and bumpy rides across The United States and Canada.
What eyewear is suggested to view the eclipse?
Sunglasses are not OKAY. There are eclipse glasses that you can find online, but make sure you inspect your source. Alternatively, with relative ease, you can make a pinhole electronic camera utilizing a shoebox and some aluminum foil (again, look online). You can establish field glasses on a tripod or a small telescope to predict the image onto a screen– just don’t browse them. NASA has an eclipse website with more info.
Are solar eclipses simple to anticipate?
Yes. Forecasting eclipses was one of the primary tasks that astronomers provided for the last 2,000 years. With our existing technology, predicting eclipses is quite simple to do. Solar eclipses happen a couple of times each year, but overall solar eclipses happen just every few years, and given that the Earth is mainly ocean, they are not always simple to see.
When will the next solar eclipses be over The United States and Canada?
It appears like there will be eclipses over some parts of North America in 2024 (Texas to New york city), 2044 (Montana and Canada), and a great one in 2045 (California to Florida).
Why do these things capture people’s imaginations?
Due to the fact that the sun, the moon, and the Earth are fantastic. You have a blazing hot ball of plasma, one million times the volume of the Earth and 10,000 degrees Farenheit. It is briefly obstructed by a gigantic, self-gravitating rock the size of North America. The shadow is cast 250,000 miles away onto another ball of rock, this one with a piece of habitability less than 10 miles thick and upon which there are 7.4 billion members of a types able to both appreciate how gorgeous the situation is and understand how everything works.
I believe that being humbled by the universe influences gratitude for life– and gratitude is good medication for whatever ails you.
Is this as big a deal to scientist like you as it seems to be to amateur stargazers?
No, not truly. We have instruments on the ground and in space that permit us to study the sun without needing the eclipse. But, solar eclipses have been used in the past for many essential discoveries. For instance, Einstein’s theory of gravity was validated utilizing star positions during a solar eclipse.
Was there an astronomical occasion that stimulated your interest in this field?
There was an eclipse when I remained in elementary school. We all made pinhole video cameras and went outside. However it was overcast that day and we didn’t get to see anything. I have actually seen 2 transits of Mercury and one transit of Venus. However, what truly got me going in astronomy was my introduction to astronomy class my first year of college.