Eclipse stuff!

So yeah, unless you live under a rock, you know there’s a total solar eclipse coming in a couple weeks, and you probably know we’re in the path of totality.  You may even have done some googling or read a bit about “totality’, and what a “total solar eclipse” means.

(If not, this page has a pretty good explanation of the types of solar eclipses, and the differences between them.)

SO…this post won’t bore you with all that crap. 🙂

Instead, I want to tell you about a few “odd” things you may, if you’re lucky, get to experience during this total eclipse, before, during, and after totality.

If there’s some trees nearby, during the partial phases of the eclipse, go stand in their shade and look at the bits of light coming through the leaves.  At the right orientation, you may be able to see thousands of tiny “crescent suns” on the ground!  This is the result of the tree’s leaves…and more specifically the small gaps between them…acting as pinhole cameras!  In precisely the same way as we MAKE pinhole cameras for viewing the partial portions of an eclipse, nature has provided her own. 🙂

If you can find a wide open, flat area for viewing the eclipse, pay close attention to your surroundings in the few moments before and after totality…you may actually be able to watch the moon’s shadow rushing across the ground toward and away from you.

During totality, the sky will become dark enough to see several bright planets and even a few stars.  Especially look for two bright “stars” fairly near the sun…those are likely to be Venus (farther away, west of the sun, and the much rarer sight, Mercury (which should be quite close, slightly SSE of the sun).  You may also catch sight of the star Sirius.

Also during totality, take your eclipse glasses off (Yes, it’s COMPLETELY safe to do so during totality) and if we get REALLY lucky (not, I’m afraid, very likely as this eclipse is occurring during a solar minimum) not only will you be able to see the sun’s corona (the pale “glow” around the sun during this time…essentially the sun’s atmosphere) but you may be able to see bright red prominences at the edge…a sight normally reserved only for specialized solar telescopes and filters.

And finally, immediately (as in, within a minute or so) before and after totality, look on light colored surfaces (perhaps a bit of poster board facing the sun, the side of a house or car, etc) for “wavy shadows”.  As the moon is very near complete coverage of the sun’s disc, the turbulence of the atmosphere combined with gaps/holes/barriers created by the rough, mountainous edge of the moon’s disk will produce a very strange effect, and you’ll see shadow’s dancing and waving across lightly colored surfaces.

Ultimately, remember first and foremost to BE SAFE.  but don’t forget to experience all the fascinating and unique sights such a rare astronomical event has to offer.

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