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Solar Eclipse Viewing

Alumni Commons

image of solar eclipse viewing locationsThe goal of every eclipse chaser should be to get to a clear spot within the path of totality. The closer to the center of the path, the longer totality will last. A totally eclipsed Sun is a visual experience like no other. There is a crown of light surrounding the Sun that is a million times dimmer than the Sun’s surface. It cannot be observed while any part of the surface is uncovered. No one can predict in advance what it will look like; each eclipse is unique. 

From Lexington, 96% of the Sun’s surface will be covered by the Moon. However, any part of the surface is too bright to be observed safely without proper filtration. Every solar eclipse someone, somewhere is tempted to look at the Sun “only for a moment.” The result is a blind spot in the retina exactly where you need it to work, the center of your vision. You rely on this part of the retina to see faces, read books, drive a car, and watch television. This eye damage cannot be repaired. Additionally, homemade filters are not recommended, in part because it is possible to create a filter that makes you feel comfortable but passes dangerous light that your eye cannot detect. With only 4% of the solar surface visible, the problem is even worse because the darker environment will cause the eye’s pupils to expand, letting in even more light than is typical. 

In Lexington, the eclipse begins at 1:51 PM and will end at 4:24 PM. Maximum eclipse occurs a few minutes after 3:00 PM EDT. If you are traveling to totality, keep in mind the time change when entering the Central Time Zone. 

Fortunately, it is very easy and safe to see using a pinhole to project the image onto a piece of white paper. Small gaps in the leaves of a tree will fill the sidewalk with images of the Sun. A comprehensive safety summary can be found at the American Astronomical Society

Throughout the eclipse, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will set up solar telescopes in the Alumni Commons, if the weather allows.