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2017 Total Solar Eclipse: What to know, where to go

Rare solar event to reach peak at 10:34 a.m. locally

On August 21, the Earth will cross the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon’s shadow passes through the continental United States. Image Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

On August 21, the Earth will cross the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon’s shadow passes through the continental United States. Image Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Solar viewings held by the Astronomers of the Verde Valley allow those curious enough to see the sun in all its blazing glory, even on a hot summer day. The biggest solar event of the century – the Aug. 21 Total Solar Eclipse – will block the sun entirely in a span that reaches coast to coast.

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On August 21, the Earth will cross the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon’s shadow passes through the continental United States. Image Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

“Eclipses are quite common.  Both solar and lunar eclipses occur roughly every six months, but eclipses are not always total,” said Diane Dutkevitch, an astronomy instructor at Yavapai College.

The Verde Valley will get 68-70 percent totality during the Total Solar Eclipse. According to Dutkevitch, the span of totality is only about 75 miles wide, leaving Arizona outside the span. While 100 percent won’t be possible to witness in Arizona, astronomers say the event is nevertheless worthy of attention. This eclipse will peak at approximately 10:34 a.m. in Cottonwood and 10:32 a.m. in Prescott.

Catch the eclipse on Aug. 21 at some point between 9:15 a.m. to noon, because the next chance to view an eclipse in the United States will be in April 2024, with a totality from Texas to Maine.

SAFETY FIRST

“Do not attempt to look at the sun through binoculars, not even for an instant.  The light intensity will be hundreds of times greater than if you looked at the sun directly. Think of how you can burn things by concentrating the light from the Sun with a magnifying glass.  The effect would be the same if you looked at the sun through binoculars.  You don’t want to do that to your eyeball.”

-- Diane Dutkevitch, astronomy instructor, Yavapai College

An eclipse occurs when the moon blocks any part of the sun, causing the Moon’s shadow to sweep across the Earth. According to Jeffrey Hall, Director of Lowell Observatory, this year’s eclipse stands out because anyone in the country can view it, no special scientific background or equipment required. The eclipse has also been called the “Great American Eclipse” because of its visibility from anywhere in the United States.

“It’s unusually accessible. Instead of being over ocean or a remote land area, it crosses the entire length of a densely populated continent. This will make it probably one of the most viewed celestial events in history,” said Hall.

Without totality, the partial eclipse won’t be safe to look at with the naked eye.

“At no time in Arizona will it be safe to look at the Sun without filters specially designed for solar viewing,” said Dutkevitch. “Do not attempt to look at the sun through binoculars, not even for an instant.  The light intensity will be hundreds of times greater than if you looked at the sun directly. Think of how you can burn things by concentrating the light from the Sun with a magnifying glass.  The effect would be the same if you looked at the sun through binoculars.  You don’t want to do that to your eyeball.”

Solar glasses and homemade devices made to minimize ultraviolent and infrared light should be used to view the eclipse. Avoid permanently damaging your eyes by wearing eye protection while looking at a partial eclipse.

“Everyone needs to have realistic expectations, especially since this is a high-profile event.  It is not going to get dark here in Arizona – in fact, if you didn’t know from all the news reports that an eclipse was happening, you might not even notice it,” said Hall. “The sky might get slightly duskier and it might feel a little cooler at maximum eclipse, but even with 60-70percent of the sun covered, the sun’s disk will remain dazzlingly bright, much more than bright enough to damage your eyes if you look directly at it. So, enjoy the partial eclipse, but do so safely.”

Viewing the eclipse from home can be done with eclipse glasses or a telescope with a proper filter (either a white light filter or a hydrogen alpha filter.)

A makeshift pinhole camera can also be used to see the eclipse. According to Hall, a pinhole camera can be made by taking a piece of paper or aluminum foil – or even a household item with holes like a colander – and holding it between the sun and a flat surface. A projection of the partial eclipse can be seen on the flat surface and the sun will look like a crescent.

Here are nearby family-friendly viewing parties happening Monday during the eclipse:

Camp Verde Library Solar Eclipse Viewing

Starting at 9 a.m. the library will be giving out solar glasses and hosting a viewing. The library will also be live-streaming the event on their big screen.

Solar Eclipse Celebration at the Prescott Valley Civic Center Amphitheater

The Prescott Valley Public Library and the Prescott Astronomy Club will be hosting a Solar Eclipse Celebration at the Civic Center Amphitheater from 9 a.m. to noon. There will be telescopes designed for safe solar viewing, talks, NASA livestream of the total solar eclipse, and more.

Sedona Library Star Party with Sedona Lookers

The Sedona Lookers are hosting a star party at Sedona library during the eclipse in the front parking lot. Sedona Library will also be offering 200 free eclipse solar glasses to viewers for the event that morning at 9 a.m. There will be binoculars with safe filters to view it up close and in 3D.

Lowell Observatory Eclipse Viewing Party

Lowell Observatory open early @ 8 a.m. family friendly crafts, all day solar viewing with the necessary equipment to view the eclipse, including solar telescopes and solar glasses, and Wheely’s café coffee and pastries.

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