Tips for viewing the solar eclipse of 2024

On Monday, April 8, the United States will experience a total solar eclipse – a rare astronomical phenomenon where the Moon passes directly between the Sun and Earth, almost completely blocking sunlight. The last total solar eclipse in the contiguous US was in 2017, and the next one won’t occur until 2044.

If the weather cooperates, people across the United States – from northeastern Maine to southwestern Texas – will be able to observe the eclipse using protective glasses. Those who are on the path of totality, The best views will be where the Moon completely covers the Sun, but 99% of people in the continental US will be able to see a partial eclipse. If weather remains favorable, the MIT campus and surrounding area will see 93 percent of the Sun covered, with the partial eclipse beginning at 2:15 p.m. and reaching its peak around 3:29 p.m., planning gatherings at Kresge Oval and MIT. Has been created. The Museum and a live NASA stream will be shown in the Building 55 atrium.

Brian Mernoff, ComLab’s manager in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is an accomplished astrophotographer and science teacher. Mernoff is headed to Vermont with his family to experience totality from the best possible angle — but he offered some ideas about how to enjoy the eclipse safely wherever you are.

Why: What should viewers expect to see and experience from this solar eclipse?

A: When you’re watching TV (the Sun) and your child, dog, or other large mammal (the Moon) blocks your view, you undoubtedly move a little to get a partial or full view of the TV. The path of totality works exactly the same way for an eclipse. If you are exactly in line with the Moon and the Sun, it will be completely blocked, but if you start moving away from this path, your view of the Sun will begin to move until the Moon is completely blocked out. Don’t come in the way.

The closer you are to the path of totality, the more of the Sun will be blocked. At MIT, about 93 percent of the sun will be blocked. People living in the area will notice that things around you will become slightly darker, like when clouds begin to gather. Still, the Sun will be very bright in the sky and solar glasses will be required to view the eclipse in its entirety. This really shows how incredibly bright the Sun is!

Within the narrow path of totality, the moon will continue to sweep across the sun, reaching 100 percent coverage. For this short period of time, you can remove your glasses and see a black disk where the sun should be. There will be jagged white lines around the disc. This is the corona, the outermost part of the Sun, which normally shines from the Sun’s photosphere (surface). Around the edges of the moon’s dark disk, as totality begins and ends, you can also see bright spots around the edges, known as belly beads, flashing among the mountains and craters on the moon. Are caused by sunlight.

but that’s not all! Although you’ll be tempted to stare solely at the sun, don’t forget to observe the world around you. During totality, it feels like twilight. Sunsets turn 360 degrees, temperatures change rapidly, winds change, animals start making different sounds, and shadows start getting weird (check out the “shadow bands” if you have a chance).

As soon as totality ends, and you start seeing Bailey’s Pearls again, put your solar glasses back on because it will get bright again very quickly as the moon moves out of the way.

Why: What are the best options for viewing the eclipse safely and to maximum effect?

A: No matter where you are during the eclipse, make sure you have solar glasses. These glasses must be ISO-approved for solar viewing. Do not use glasses with scratches, holes, or other damage.

If you are unable to get solar glasses in time, you can safely view the eclipse by projecting the Sun’s image through a home projection method, such as a pinhole camera or even a colander.

The best views of the eclipse will be from within the path of totality, but if you’re not within it, you should still go outside to experience the partial eclipse. Use NASA Eclipse Explorer to find the start, maximum, and end times, and then find a nice spot outside — preferably with some shade — put on your glasses, and enjoy the show.

To get a closer look at the Sun, find a friend who has a telescope with the correct ISO-certified solar filter. This will let you see the photosphere (or chromosphere if it’s an H-alpha scope) in much more detail. If you don’t have access to a telescope, NASA plans to livestream the telescope view during the eclipse. [The livestream will be displayed publicly on a large screen in Building 55 at MIT, rain or shine.]

Only during 100 percent totality can you view or image the Sun without filters. As soon as this period is over, the glasses and filters should be put back in place.

Keep your glasses and filters after the eclipse. You can use them to look at the Sun any day (it took me quite an embarrassing amount of time to realize that I can use glasses any day instead of binoculars). On a really clear day, you can sometimes see sunspots!

Why: How does eclipse photography work?

A: This year I plan to photograph the eclipse in two ways. The first is using the Hydrogen-Alpha Telescope. This telescope filters out all light except one wavelength emitted by hydrogen. Because it blocks most of the light from the Sun’s surface, it allows you to see the Sun’s turbulent upper atmosphere, including solar prominences that follow magnetic field lines.

Because this telescope does not allow imaging during totality because too much light is blocked, I also plan to set up a regular camera with a wide-angle lens to capture the full eclipse with the surrounding atmosphere as reference. I am making it. During the 2017 eclipse, I captured only close-ups of the Sun using regular solar filters and missed the opportunity to capture what was going on around me.

Will this work? It depends on whether we get clear skies, and how many photos of my 1.5-year-old need to be taken (as well as how much chasing is required).

If you want to take photos of the eclipse, make sure you protect your camera sensor. The sun can easily damage lenses, sensors, and other components. Here are some examples of cameras damaged by solar energy. However the solution is simple. If using a camera phone, you can take photos through an extra pair of solar glasses, or even tape them to the phone. For cameras with larger lenses, you can buy cardboard filters that slide in front of your camera or even buy ISO-approved solar film and make your own.

Why: Any fun, unique, cool or interesting science facts to share about this eclipse?

A: If you want to get even more involved with the eclipse, there are several citizen science projects that plan to collect as much data as possible during the entire eclipse.

NASA plans to run several experiments during the eclipse, and researchers at MIT Haystack Observatory will also use four different technologies to monitor changes in the upper atmosphere locally and across the continent.

If you’re interested in learning more about the eclipse, here are two of my favorite videos, one on “Unexpected Science from a 0.000001 Megapixel Home-Made Telescope” and one on preparing for a solar eclipse.

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