The solar eclipse: what it is and where to watch it

The last solar eclipse observed by America was a century ago.

The last solar eclipse observed by America was a century ago.

Summer Perritt, Lifestyle & Opinions Editor

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The first Solar Eclipse to cross the United States in almost a century will be visible Aug. 21, the day before classes start.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly in between the sun and Earth, causing the light of the sun to be overshadowed and earth to go dark for a few minutes.

“An eclipse is a natural event. For those of us on Earth, who are used to seeing the sun unobstructed during the day, this can seem very significant,” said Paul Fisher, the Science Curator at the Museum of Arts and Sciences here in Macon.  

While eclipses actually occur a few times a year, they are rarely visible from Earth and there hasn’t been one to cross the United States in the last century.  

The upcoming eclipse has been labeled a “total eclipse” meaning in certain parts of the country, the sun’s light will be completely blocked out from Earth. This kind of eclipse exposes the sun’s outer atmosphere, producing a small ring of light resembling a halo around the black shadow.

There is a path approximately 70 miles wide where the total eclipse of the sun will be visible. While this path does not cross Macon, it will come very close, leaving viewers with 96 percent coverage of the Sun and great views of the Eclipse.

“If you are in the path of totality…you are very definitely going to notice the 2.5 minutes of darkness that we are expecting from this eclipse. You will be turning on your headlights, or if you are in the house, you will be turning on a light, because the sun’s light will be absent,” Fisher said.

The eclipse will begin in Georgia around 1 p.m. and last until 4 p.m., but complete totality starts at 2:35 p.m. and ends at 2:38 p.m.

“It’s an experience to watch the moon move across the disk of the sun, to watch the sky become darker and bluer, and to feel a momentary chill in the air. You will also notice changes in shadows,” Fisher said.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), looking directly into the sky at almost any point during an eclipse can cause irreparable eye damage but luckily there are several viewing events around town for students to safely watch the eclipse.

Fortunately, you don’t have to travel far, because Professor Matt Marone of the Physics department at Mercer University will be hosting a watch party for the eclipse.

If the sky is clear enough, we will be out on Cruz plaza… I will have the solar telescope setup and plan to broadcast a live image on the Mercer Facebook page,” Marone said.

The event will be held on Cruz Plaza with a solar telescope aimed at the sky and a tent with several viewing monitors. The viewing will last from 1-4 p.m.

If you’d like to celebrate this rare event for longer, the Museum of Arts and Sciences on Forsyth Road is dedicating a whole day to the solar eclipse. They will be streaming the NASA live footage of the eclipse, have planetarium shows, crafts for kids and even a telescope set up for people to look through.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the cost for students is $7.

For those not looking to spend money before the semester starts, The Ocmulgee National Monument is hosting a viewing event on top of the Great Temple Mound within the park. The event will include a talk about the astronomy of the ancient Mississippian culture and the history of solar eclipses. The first 50 people to arrive at the event will receive a free pair of Solar eclipse glasses.

If you would still rather just walk outside your dorm to see the Eclipse instead going to a viewing, it is recommended that you take the necessary safety precautions. Solar Eclipse glasses can be purchased online or at select home goods stores for a cheap price. Just make sure that your glasses meet safety standards to properly protect your eyes from the Eclipse.

Whether you choose to attend a viewing event or just open your window in the late afternoon, make sure you don’t miss this rare event. After all, the next total solar eclipse might not occur for  another 99 years.

“The best things, though, are those things you see that nobody warned you about. Those things are the most fun,” Fisher said.

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