The Great Solar Eclipse is Here

The United States sees its first total eclipse in almost 100 years.

By Solomon Smith, Editor-in-Chief

The first total solar eclipse visible in the United States in almost 100 years occurs today as Americans prepare to come together to watch the historic event.

The eclipse begins early morning today, and depending on where you are in the country, it will last for several minutes as the Moon crosses in front of the sun casting its shadow upon the Earth.  Not everyone will get the full eclipse, however.  In what is called the “path of totality” a narrow band falling across the face of the Earth, the Moon will appear to completely cover up the sun creating a dramatic effect of darkness in the middle of the day.  For those lucky few in the path of totality the sun will not only be completely covered, allowing them to look directly at it, but the stars may also be visible.

Whether you get a total eclipse or partial depends on your point of view. California, unfortunately is not in the path of totality, but still gets some partial eclipse goodness.  Valley, and the greater portion of Los Angeles, will be in the penumbra of the moon, the outer shadow,  for a once in a decade view of the partial eclipse.

Los Angeles and the valley will see the greater part of the partial eclipse at about 10:21a.m., with the phenomenon stating at about 9a.m.today.

As exciting as the eclipse is it is important to use caution when viewing it.  The sun will still be out for those in the partial eclipse area and should not be viewed directly with the naked eye.  Many places are selling novelty glasses to view the eclipse safely but if you cannot find a pair of viewing glasses you can also make a pinhole projector.  NASA’s special website shows readers how to make a safe pinhole viewer for seeing the partial eclipse.  It also reminds viewers that only specially rated solar filters and viewers are safe, and even dark polarized glasses allow “thousands of times too much sunlight.”

Many news channels are also live casting the eclipse as an alternative safer viewing method or for those who are in areas of cloudy weather.  CNN has images from all over the country showing the eclipse for its entire duration.

Today’s eclipse is unique because this is the first one since 1918.  Although the sun is 400 times larger than the moon it is also about 400 times closer to the Earth allowing the sun to be totally covered by the moon, according to the Los Angeles Times special coverage which shows a map of its path as well as a timetable for viewing in southern California.

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