Monday, May 14, 2012

Solar Eclipse 2012 Going Down May 20th

Oh the things that fascinate me! This year, folks in the Western parts of the Americas and Eastern Asia will get to do the honours experiencing the Solar Eclipse, while the rest of the world will have to wait for second-hand accounts and photographs of the solar event.

If you happen to be in the area during the event, whatever you do, don't look at the eclipse directly, matter of fact don't even attempt to watch it with sunglasses or improvised filtering devices because the potential for eye damage is real.  And yes you can go blind from watching an eclipse!

I remember back home we indulged in these solar events through the eyes of a water-filled basin. This improvised assembly displayed a reflection of the partly covered sun in the basin. Even then the adults at the time, cautioned not to stare for very long to avoid eye damage.

The way to safely observe the eclipse come Sunday is to buy special solar filters that will fit over viewing equipments like binoculars, telescopes and cameras.  You may use welder's safety glasses rated No. 14 to view  directly however.  Speaking of welding glasses, I remember as a curious little kid back home, we had a welder come in to burglar-proof the windows of the house.  He cut and welded iron rods into an impenetrable barricade that was installed over the windows to prevent break and enter.  I was fascinated by the bright scintillating light that sparked off the welding rods and though the welder warned me not to look, I did steal a few glances.  That night I abruptly woke up from my sleep covered in sweat.  My eyes felt like it had grit thrown in them.  I was convinced that I was going blind until some eye drops eventually provided relief.  Since then I don't make eye contact with welders, even when they are not welding.  But I digress.

Finally you may use your binoculars to project the sun unto a shaded cardboard for safe indirect viewing, just remember to cover the unused lens.

The solar eclipse will be visible as a "ring of fire" to natives from The Chinese coast, Northern Taiwan, Southern Japan and Western parts of the United States and Canada, weather permitting.  For the folks in the US and Canada Sunday May 20th late afternoon to early evening is the window to view, while Asia gets their turn May 21st.

Solar Filters

No 14 Welder's Goggles

Now that we have covered the where, when and how about the impending Annular eclipse, I will touch briefly on the what, the least palatable part of this topic, because straight up it's Astrophysics.  A solar eclipse is when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. Since the Moon will be at it's farthest distance away from the Earth during this eclipse, the moon only blocks the central part of the sun giving the "ring of fire" appearance.  This is what makes observing the event especially dangerous to the viewing eye because a lot of the Sun's rays are still coming through.  But enough of the Astrophysics already, happy Annular Eclipse Viewing come Sunday evening!!!

You may also like: 2012 Solar Eclipse Images, "Ring of Fire"

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