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And darkness falls

by William J. Bechaver

EARTH — Well, the astronomical event of the year has finally arrived, as we will be treated to a solar eclipse.

The eclipse event, which takes place this Monday, August 21, has been dubbed the National Eclipse. It is the first total solar eclipse to be seen from coast to coast in America, and exclusively in America. The totality will not be viewed in any other country. Also, the eclipse will be viewable in every contiguous state, to differing degrees, though only along a narrow path across the country will it be seen in totality.

Here in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, viewers can expect to see an eclipse with about eighty four percent of the sun blocked from view.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and sun, casting its shadow across the surface of the planet.

The event here will start at 10:23 am, though looking for the first 30 minutes or so will only show a slight part of the sun covered, and may be hard to detect. Maximum coverage here will be at 11:48 am, with approximately 84% obscured.

Keep in mind, the further north you are, the more will be covered. If you were to travel far enough north, into Wyoming, totality will last just over two and a half minutes.

As with all solar eclipses, viewing safety is the primary concern. Eclipse viewing glasses are available. Remember, viewing through a photo negative, x-ray, or even a welder’s shield, is not recommended.

The safest way to view an eclipse is making a simple pin point projector, and viewing the image on a sheet of paper, held just a couple of feet away. Safe viewing tips and ways to make your own viewer are readily available online.

The total event, from start to finish, will last just under three hours, so you have plenty of opportunity to get out there and watch the progression. I suggest start looking at the onset of the event, and then go out about every ten minutes, to see the progression of the moon crossing in front of the bright disk of the sun. Remember, never look directly at it with the naked eye.

So, get out there next Monday for a rare daytime astronomical event, and enjoy with all the citizens of our country, our National Eclipse. Whether you see total or partial, it will be a great event to witness, on an astronomically historic day.

Thanks for the positive feedback about our featured columns, and your continued interest in astronomy. If you have any questions or article requests, contact us at spacescape@rocketmail.com, or follow us on Twitter @ColoSpacEScapE for updates and additional viewing opportunities.

William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE: Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

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