What is a Solar Eclipse?

 

There is nothing that displays celestial mechanics better than an eclipse.  Watching two celestial bodies work together by the force of gravity is an awe inspiring sight. When it comes to eclipses there are two major types: Lunar and Solar.  On this page we are going to focus on Solar Eclipses. If you are interested in learning more about Lunar Eclipses please visit our Lunar Eclipse Page.

 

A Solar Eclipse is one of the most coveted events in the world of astronomy.  People from all over the world flock to locations each year in order to get a glimpse of these cosmic events. People who travel the world to observe eclipses are known as "Eclipse Chasers".  In talking to one you will find that after seeing one eclipse they become hooked on observing these events and look for ways to observe more. 

 

So what is a Solar Eclipse?  A Solar Eclipse is when the in the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth.  Because the Moon is now obstructing the Sun's light is causes the Moon's shadow to be cast down to Earth's surface.  While the act of an eclipse is the same the results may vary.  The position of the Moon and Earth can vary depending on where they are in their orbit.  Because of this Solar Eclipses can vary leading to different types of eclipse. 

 

Questions about the Sun, Eclipses and more? Email us at focussolarqa@gmail.com

Total solar eclipse: 2017

Eclipse Last Minute

We are in the final count down to the eclipse on August 21st. Over the next several days locating what you need to view this event safely is going to become harder. Below is a list of links for eclipse gear. Please be aware that this is all while supplies last. 

Local Stores:

Best Buy

Lowes 

Walmart

(in participating stores, while supplies last)

Online:

Celestron Eclipse 2x viewers

OPT Corp. Eclipse Glasses

Rainbow Symphony Plastic Eclipse Glasses

Explore Scientific Eclipse Glasses

American Paper Optics Eclipse Glasses

Above: 

A time lapse animation of the 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse. Credit: Tom Polakis

Above: 

Partial Solar Eclipse captured via cell phone in 2010. 

Types of Eclipses

 

When referring to Solar Eclipses there are three major types: Partial, Annular and Total.  

 

Partial Eclipse:

A Partial Solar eclipse is when only a portion of the Sun is covered by the Moon. A small crescent of the Sun can still be seen. Solar filters are needed to observe this type of eclipse because the amount of sunlight is still too much for our eyes to handle. 

 

Annular Eclipse:

An Annular Eclipse is when the Moon is slightly too close or too far from the Sun to cover up the entire disk. This results in a bright ring of light known as the Ring of Fire where a small percentage of the Sun's edge can still be seen.  As with a Partial Eclipse solar filters are needed to observe this type of eclipse. 

 

Total Solar Eclipse:

The crown jewel and most coveted type of Solar Eclipse is of course a Total Solar Eclipse. During this type of eclipse the Moon perfectly obscures the Sun for a breief amount of time.  This causes the light of the Sun to be completely obscured in an event called Totality allowing observation of the Sun's outer atmosphere (corona).  Solar filters are needed to view a Total eclipse leading up to and after totality. During totality (and only totality) naked eye observation of the Sun's outer atmosphere can be done. 

 

The precision of a Total Solar eclipse is one of the most remarkable displays in our solar system. The Sun sits nearly 400x further from the Moon and it just so happens that the Moon is 400x smaller than the Sun. This allows the Moon to cover the disk of the Sun perfectly during a Total Solar eclipse.  Talk about amazing!

Above:

Totality during the 2009 Total Solar Eclipse from China. Credit: Tom Polakis 

Above: 

The "Diamond Ring" occurs when the Sun is nearly covered by the Moon before and after Totality. Credit: Tom Polakis

August 21, 2017... The Event

 

For years Total Solar eclipses have been an event that many travel the world for. Many of these eclipses have taken place in distant remote lands far from heavily populated regions.  However on August 21, 2017 a Total Solar eclipse is going to pass over the United States.  With a population of over 300 million people the US will play host to what is to be the most observed and photographed eclipses in human history!

 

With the aid of technology such as the internet, social media, cameras and affordable equipment being able to observe and photograph a Total Solar eclipse will be easier than ever!  For many being able to observe this event will be no more difficult than going out and looking up (check location first).

 

On Monday, August 21, 2017 the shadow of the Moon will make its way across the US; starting in the northern Pacific and ending off the coast of northern Africa.  The path of the Moon's shadow across the Earth's surface is known at the Path of Totality.  In order to observe the Sun being totally eclipsed you MUST be within the Path of Totality, anywhere else you will need solar filters to observe this event which will only appear as a partial eclipse. 

 

To learn where the Path of Totality (the gray band on the map) is for the 2017 eclipse please go to this link and find your location: Path of Totality 2017.

Above:

A map of the US displaying the 2017 path of totality. For an interactive map please visit this LINK. Credit: Xavier Jubier.

No matter where you are in the continental US portions of the eclipse will be visible (using solar filters).  If you are outside of the path of totality or before and after totality the eclipse will appear as a deep Partial eclipse.  For those who would like to observe this eclipse we recommend looking into a pair of Eclipse Glasses or other solar equipment in order to view this safely. Please visit our Sun page to learn how to observe the Sun safely without damaging you eyes.

 

DO NOT attempt to with the Sun at ANY time without the proper filters. 

How to Observe a Solar Eclipse

Solar Filters

Solar filters and dedicated solar telescopes are also options for observing the Sun safely.  To learn more about this type of equipment please visit our Sun Page to get an in depth look and all types of Solar equipment options. 

 

It is important that you know what you are getting before the eclipse day arrives. Demand for Solar equipment grows rapidly before large solar events. Be sure to get a game plan several months before hand.  

 

Purchase equipment from reputable astronomy dealers, this is to ensure you are getting the real deal as far as equipment.  Focus Astronomy recommends Woodland Hills Camera as they offer an extensive stock of solar equipment long before the day arrives. 

Share it with others!

 

We are all in this together! Sharing amazing events like an eclipse can be fun and bring people together.  Those with specialized gear for observing the Sun are encouraged to set up and let others take a peak.  Grabbing a pack of Solar glasses for friends and family can be another great way to experience these amazing events. 

 

Take pictures of your friends and you checking out these celestial displays. Share on social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (#FocusAstronomy)!  

 

Having an eye on the universe can give people a sense of scale and our place in the universe.  We encourage everyone to go explore the wonders of the cosmos and share it with others.  Most of all HAVE FUN but be safe by using the correct equipment! 

 

If you ever have any questions about eclipses, the Sun or other astronomy related events please email us atFocusSolarQA@gmail.com, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have! 

Eclipses can be an exciting and amazing sight but they need to be handled with caution.  Observing the Sun at any time can be dangerous to our eyes.  Making sure you are educated and equipped to observe these celestial events is an important aspect of having fun.  Here we are going to cover how you can see these events safely no matter where you are.   

 

Solar Glasses

Observing a Solar Eclipse doesn't have to be a costly venture.  In fact you you don't need any kind of optics to see a Solar Eclipse!  The best and most cost effective way to observe an eclipse of the Sun is with a pair of stylish Solar Glasses (as seen below and the image on the left). Solar glasses (eclipse glasses) use a special black polymer material that filters out 99.99% of the Sun's light allowing you to observe an eclipse in safety.  These solar glasses can be purchased for around a $2 or so and even in larger packs for those needing bulk amounts.  Focus HIGHLY recommends that everyone should have a pair of these during an eclipse no matter your level of interest.  Demand for these glasses sky rockets during eclipses so to ensure you get a set order them several months before hand and store them in a safe place until the day arrives! 

Location, Location, Location....

 

Solar eclipses are nothing new in the world of astronomy.  These astronomical events are known about years in advance.  Many astronomers, scientists and eclipse chasers plan out their location of choice several years in advance.  Making sure you have a location is an important aspect of seeing an eclipse, especially a total eclipse. Here is a list of several things you want to make sure of before heading out:

 

1) Find a location with good weather.

2) Make sure you are mobile just in case the weather changes.

3) Plan your lodging as early as possible. 

4) Portable equipment that can be easily set up.

 

The path of totality for a total solar eclipse becomes a hot bed a year or two before the eclipse occurs.  Make sure you know where you are going and where you can stay (if you are traveling) as far in advance as possible. Sometimes hotels or lodging locations will increase pricing of their rooms when word of the eclipse spreads. Waiting till the last minute to book your trip will leave you in a tight spot of either missing the eclipse entirely or paying way more for a place to stay.  

 

If you are looking for places to view in groups check out major cities along the eclipse path.  Finding astronomy clubs, museums, planetariums and colleges offering eclipse events can done via a quick Google search. Don't be afraid to call or email several places to find out their plans for the event.  Observing an event like this with a group of friends or others can make it that much more fun! 

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