How to safely watch a solar eclipse
You can’t avoid the hype about Monday’s eclipse.
The stories come nonstop.
Like this one.
It might seem like everyone you know is headed for Oregon to see the eclipse in totality.
Bah, humbug, you say. You’ve seen shadows before.
But there’s no harm in taking a look-see at the thing.
Who’s going to know? Everyone else is going to be out of town.
HERE’S WHAT TO EXPECT
In Tacoma, 93 to 94 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon. All that will be left is a thin crescent at the peak of the event, about 10:20 a.m.
“It won’t be complete but it will be pretty spectacular,” said University of Puget Sound astronomer and physics professor Bernard Bates.
First, get yourself some eclipse glasses. If you can find them. The glasses were sold out at local Fred Meyer stores, Best Buy and Walmart.
One person who does have some — 1,500 of them — is Katie Iadanza, Pierce College’s planetarium manager.
A program on the eclipse will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the college, followed by telescope viewing and general eclipse hoopla.
Iadanza and other Science Dome staff members will be handing out the glasses. But only on Monday morning.
Iadanza has never seen a total eclipse and she won’t this time either.
“I’m a little jealous of people going to Oregon,” she said.
Those folks who are headed to the region of totality, where the moon will completely cover the sun, will be able to take their glasses off for about two minutes.
You won’t. But you might be tempted when the sun is only a thin sliver in the sky around 10 a.m.
“That’s what they’re really worried about,” Bates said. “It kind of fools you. It doesn’t look very bright but what’s there is really bright.”
That little crescent can cause permanent eye damage.
Do you want to live the rest of your life with a reminder of the event you weren’t that excited about to begin with?
We didn’t think so. Put the glasses on.
You don’t have glasses? You can make an eclipse viewer out of a cardboard box with a pinhole. Heck, you can fashion a pinhole out of your fist.
Still too much work?
Stand under a tree. The crescent shape will project itself on to the ground through the leaves.
Another phenomenon to look for: extra sharp shadows. The thin sliver of sun will cause the edges of shadows to become more defined, Bates said.
WHERE TO GO?
That’s the easy part. Just step outside.
But, Bates said, a better option might be where you have an expansive view: Ruston Way or Chambers Bay.
As the moon covers the sun, less light will hit Earth. That means the land will get darker, even Mount Rainier.
Just how dark is hard to say. Even six percent of the sun is still a lot of light. Making it more difficult to notice is the fact our eyes adjust to lowering light levels.
“If you’re not paying attention, you might not notice it,” Bates said. “It’ll never get dark enough that you’ll see stars or planets.”
But he’s not sticking around to check any of this out.
Bates is going to Oregon.