North America gears up for Thursday’s partial solar eclipse-filled sunset

North America gears up for Thursday’s partial solar eclipse-filled sunset
Much of North America will experience a solar eclipse on Thursday, with the moon covering up to 70 percent of the sun in the late afternoon. Along most of the East Coast and Midwest, the event will occur during sunset, allowing for dramatic photography.

“Sunsets are always pretty. One sunset this month could be out of this world. On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, the setting sun across eastern parts of the USA will be red, beautiful and… crescent-shaped,” NASA Science wrote. The alignment of the two orbs on the East Coast at the end of the day “will be especially beautiful… transforming the usual sunset into something weird and wonderful.”

The farther north viewers are, the deeper the eclipse they’ll see, and the farther west they are, the higher the sun and moon will be in the sky. Thus the comparatively later dusk of the Midwest may provide the most spectacular views of sunset-enhanced phenomenon.

"Observers in the Central Time zone have the best view because the eclipse is in its maximum phase at sunset," longtime NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak said. "They will see a fiery crescent sinking below the horizon, dimmed to human visibility by low-hanging clouds and mist."

New England and Canada’s maritime provinces will not be able to view the event, and the regions’ residents must comfort themselves with their gorgeous fall foliage instead.

(from NASA)

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the new moon passes between the Earth and the sun, obscuring part ‒. but not all ‒ of the image of the sun. The center of the moon’s shadow will miss the earth, passing above the North Pole. The event will begin near the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Siberia, where it will be Friday morning, then moves eastward and deepens as the moon moves along its orbit.

The greatest eclipse, with more than four-fifths of the sun's diameter covered by the moon, will occur over the Canadian Arctic at M'Clintock Channel in the territory of Nunavut. For much of Alaska, western and central Canada, the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, more than 60 percent of the sun's diameter will be covered by the passing new moon. For the Southwest and central and southern Plains, the eclipse magnitude diminishes to between 40 and 60 percent. Across the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi valleys, maximum eclipse will coincide with sunset, Space.com reported.

Those who wish to view the unusual event must take special precautions so as to not damage their eyes, telescopes and cameras. The most important is to never look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses on.

“You might think sunglasses are OK, but they’re generally not. They can make it worse; they block visible light from the Sun, so the pupil in your eye widens,” Slate warned. “That can let in more harmful UV and infrared light.”

Ultraviolet and infrared light can cause permanent damage. “Dangerous ultraviolet and infrared light focused on your retinas will damage your vision for life. Nothing’s worth that risk,” Universe Today explained.

People can safely view the eclipse through “pinhole filters,” such as the leaves on a tree or a small hole pierced in a dark shade or piece of paper, will cast an image of the event onto a flat surface. They can also use special eclipse glasses.

Nikon advises the use of a solar filter ‒ specifically full-aperture solar filters ‒ on cameras and telescopes “to keep from harming your camera’s imaging sensor as well as for correct exposure.”

AFP Photo / Saeed Khan

This eclipse will be the fourth and final of 2014. In April, there was a total lunar eclipse on the 15th and the annular solar eclipse on the 29th. This month, there was a total lunar eclipse on October 8, with the partial solar on the 23rd. Both lunar events were considered “Blood Moons.” This year also plays host to five “supermoons,” when the orb appears to be bigger and brighter than normal during its full moon phase.

While this year has been an exciting one for professional astronomers and amateur stargazers alike, 2017 promises to be an even better one, when the first total eclipse of the sun to be visible from the contiguous 48 states in nearly four decades will sweep in an east-southeast direction from Oregon to South Carolina. “So, for many, Oct. 23 will provide a rehearsal for the [next] big event" on August 21, 2017,Space.com noted.