On Monday, August 21st the continental US will see its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in almost 100 years. (A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon covers all of the sun for a period of time.)
NASA very kindly created the image below detailing the path of totality — that is, the portion of the US that will get to see a total eclipse of the sun. As you can see metro Boston is not within this narrow path; however, we will still have an opportunity to experience a partial eclipse.
Path of Totality (Source: Nasa)
In the upcoming eclipse, Massachusetts can expect to see 63% of the sun eclipsed by the moon. What’s interesting is the size and shape of each area’s partial eclipse will be different. Vox has created a cool animation (using NASA’s incredibly precise data) that will show you the shape of eclipse you will see based on your zip code. Click here to check it out.
The timing of eclipse viewing in our area will be 1pm-4:30pm with the best time to view around 2:45pm, according to the Museum of Science.
Where to View the Eclipse
You can watch the eclipse from anywhere that has an obstructed view of the sun/sky. Your backyard, a local park, even a parking lot. You know you shouldn’t stare directly at the sun, of course, and this is true even during a partial eclipse. Sunglasses won’t protect your eyes, and neither will a camera, binoculars or telescope. Eclipse watchers must purchase special eye protection called solar viewers (or ambitious folks can construct their own sun viewer).
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. – Source: American Astronomical Society
Where to Find Solar Viewers
Solar viewers are inexpensive, typically costing less than $2. Devoted Amazon Prime users like us (Jen & Holly) will have to buy elsewhere, however. The experts (i.e., NASA and the American Astronomical Society) warn against trusting Amazon sellers for this important purchase. That’s because there’s just no way to tell which glasses meet standards and which don’t.
Instead, the AAS has created a list of reputable sellers of solar viewers. Just a heads up that many sites are already sold out and shipping can take awhile so if you plan to buy them, don’t wait. You may also be able to find approved viewers at Lowe’s and Walmart. Consider calling first to ensure availability.
Another option is to make your own viewers. The Watertown Public Library is holding a viewer-making event for kids 6-11 on the morning of the eclipse. The event will be held on Monday, August 21st from 11:30am-12:30pm. Registration is required. Email email@example.com to sign up.
And finally if you can’t get outside during the eclipse, you can watch live streaming of the total eclipse on NASA’s Website. Stay safe and enjoy!
Become a Citizen Scientist!
NASA invites eclipse viewers around the country to participate in a nationwide science experiment by collecting cloud and air temperature data and reporting it via their phones.
The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, or GLOBE, Program is a NASA-supported research and education program that encourages students and citizen scientists to collect and analyze environmental observations. GLOBE Observer is a free, easy-to-use app that guides citizen scientists through data collection.
“No matter where you are in North America, whether it’s cloudy, clear or rainy, NASA wants as many people as possible to help with this citizen science project,” said Kristen Weaver, deputy coordinator for the project. “We want to inspire a million eclipse viewers to become eclipse scientists.”
In order to participate, first download the GLOBE Observer app and register to become a citizen scientist. The app will instruct you on how to make the observations. Second, you will need to obtain a thermometer to measure air temperature. Observations will be recorded on an interactive map.
To join in the fun, download the GLOBE Observer app https://observer.globe.gov/about/get-the-app. After you log in, the app explains how to make eclipse observations.
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