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A Total Solar Eclipse is Coming to the United States!
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"...And we'll see YOU... in the shadow!!"

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    Viewing the Eclipse

    Here are the absolute basics for viewing the eclipse safely, and getting the most out of your viewing experience.

    Remember NEVER to look directly at the sun while any part of its bright disk is visible (not TOTALLY eclipsed).  If there is ANY bright part of the sun showing, you CANNOT look at it without eye protection. When the eclipse is TOTAL, that is, when ALL of it is COMPLETELY covered by the moon, you can then look at it directly without eye protection. In fact, during those few brief minutes and seconds of totality, you MUST look at it without protection to see anything at all. During totality, the eclipsed sun is no brighter than the full moon, and it is an experience you simply will not believe. But please, do NOT look at the sun when ANY PART of it is still bright (not covered by the moon). has eclipse glasses available for sale at a VERY low cost -- and if we're lucky, we might even be able to get the local newspapers to include safe solar filters in their editions published during eclipse weekend. Please do NOT look at the sun with your eyes unprotected when any part of its bright disk is visible!

    You want the even shorter version? Here it is:

    1) Get in the path of totality armed with your eclipse glasses.

    2) Look at the sun ONLY through the eclipse glasses while the eclipse is partial (crescent sun).

    3) When the eclipse is total, you can look right at it WITHOUT the glasses - the moon is covering it!

    3a) Do NOT try to look through the eclipse glasses at the totally eclipsed sun!   You won't see anything!

    4) When totality ends, put the glasses back on!

    What follows will tell you what you're going to see. To find out when you're going to see it, click down to this link.

    First, YOU MUST BE IN THE PATH OF TOTALITY! If you're not, then you will not see the total phase of the eclipse, and that is the whole show.

    One more time: Please look at the maps, and find a spot IN THE PATH where the weather is going to be clear.  And no, we won't know where it will be clear until a couple of DAYS beforehand, so you must be prepared to travel. Sorry, but that's how it is. This is a sight that people travel to the remotest corners of the earth for, and to a veteran eclipse chaser, a change of plans from North Carolina to Nebraska is a big fat "who cares"! You'll know why after you see totality!!! If you're not going to get yourself into the path, then you may as well not read any further, because you will not get the show, and you'll wonder why in the heck we made such a big deal out of nothing. Well, that "nothing" is all you'll get if you're not IN THE PATH!!! So trust us, and get into the path!

    Next, find the time that totality will occur there, IN THE PATH, where you are. In general, these are in the narrative account of the path, but you can also look at the Google Map that's shown on the maps page.

    OK, so now you're in the path, the weather is clear, and you're waiting for the show.  If the local government has done its job well, you'll be surrounded by a few thousand new friends who are taking it all in with you.  Make sure you have proper protection for your eyes in the form of viewing glasses, and make sure that everyone with you (especially the young ones) have their own pair and UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY that they MUST have them on whenever they look at the bright (uneclipsed) sun.  These glasses are NOT regular sunglasses - they are made of a very special material that is SAFE to look at the sun directly through, but monitor them and make sure they don't cheat!  We don't want ANYONE to come away from this experience blind!  Make sure you use your viewing glasses!!!

    About an hour and a half before totality, you will be able to see (through your eclipse viewing glasses ONLY) the first "bite" taken out of the sun.  Over the next hour, that bite will grow bigger as the moon eats more and more of the sun's disk.  You won't notice anything much (except for all the picture-taking people fussing over their equipment).  If you see anyone who has lots of expensive-looking equipment, you may ask to look through it - but be respectful of their setup, and ensure that you don't touch or do anything that they don't specifically let you do! This means kids as well...and leave the pets at home!  The eclipse will only scare the bejeezus out of them, and their presence will lessen the effect of totality for you.

    As the eclipse progresses, you will see the moon take more and more of a "bite" out of the sun.  What you will see (through your eclipse filters, of course!) is a shape that looks like a crescent moon.  Of course, it's the sun being covered by the moon, and if you use your imagination you can almost see the moon in front of it, encroaching on it, covering more and more of it as time goes on.  What you're seeing, of course, is NOT the motion of the moon due to the rotation of the earth, but the actual movement of the moon in its orbit around the earth!  It takes the moon approximately 28 days to travel the 360 degrees all the way around the sky, so if you figure that out (and if you know that the moon's apparent diameter is about a half a degree), then you can calculate that the moon moves its own diameter along its orbit in a little under an hour!  So what you'll see in the course of a couple of hours is: (1) the moon will first touch the edge of the sun, (2) the moon will travel all the way across the face of the sun (eclipsing it), and (3) the moon will continue on, eventually leaving the face of the sun.

    As the moon covers up the sun, this crescent is visible to you if you are looking at the sun with your filters.  But there's a cool thing that happens, which you may have used back in school to look at an eclipse.  Any time the sun's image is projected through a small hole (like a pinhole), you'll see a little crescent projected onto whatever surface you've put up - like the inside of a shoebox or a big piece of poster board, or a wall.  Here are some pictures of crescent suns projected through small holes between the leaves in a tree, taken by eclipse chasers the world over:


    1994, St. Louis (Sirius Observatory)

    courtesy of Jim Rodenstock

    2005, courtesy of Glenn Schneider


    See if you can see these!  Also see if you can make this "sock puppet" effect with your hands:

    2005, courtesy of Glenn Schneider



    And if you're really good, see if you can create this pinhole effect in a card, and project the images of crescent suns against a wall or other large background:

    2005, courtesy of Glenn Schneider

    OK, so that's enough fun stuff - time to get serious! About 15 minutes before totality, things start to happen. The sky starts getting noticeably dark, and you notice that the air itself feels "weird". Shadows get weirdly sharp, and the sky takes on a very crystal-clear quality to it. This is only the beginning. As totality approaches, you will be overwhelmed by things to look at, but make sure you at least see these few things:

    • The sky darkens amazingly in the last 2-3 minutes before totality
    • The temperature drops a LOT, and wind may even pick up
    • Animals think the sun is setting, and they react very strongly to this strange nighttime in midday. Birds will roost, and insects will chirp as though night is falling.
    • At the very last instant before totality, if you look to the west you will see a huge curtain of darkness spring up out of the earth - this is the moon's shadow rushing toward you.
    • As the last sliver of the sun goes away, you can see the diamond ring - the last vestige of sunlight shining through a valley on the moon.  After you see that, you can take away all your filters, because the eclipse is becoming total before your eyes.
    • The red edge of the sun - the chromosphere - becomes visible, for a brief moment.  If you're lucky, you may see solar prominences - huge tongues of fire leaping out of the sun's surface - along the edge of the eclipsed sun.
    • The corona that pops into view as the sliver of sun vanishes - this is the most awe-inspiring event of the eclipse, and it is truly remarkable - no picture or video can ever do it justice.  It blossoms before your eyes, and is simply knee-bendingly, jaw-droppingly astounding.  You will become quite illiterate watching it!
    • During totality, you will see an orange sunset glow all around the horizon.  The eclipse is not total out there, but it is for you, and you are looking out at the edges of the shadow of the moon which is currently engulfing you.  It is a truly overwhelming sight.
    • Stars and planets will be visible.  The sky will appear as though twilight has taken over.  The sun is a perfect black circle cut out of the sky, and the majestic corona is a wonderful, shimmering, cotton-candy streamer smeared across the blackness that encircles the vanished sun.
    • You will be overwhelmed emotionally by what is unfolding around you.  Do not expect that you can maintain control of yourself during this overpowering event.  Do not expect that you will ever be able to describe it to anyone else.  Do not expect that you will ever be the same again!
    • Stop.  Look at what you are seeing.  Record it in your brain, because it will be gone in a few short minutes.  Years later, you will be able to recall it, and because photos and videos can never replicate the exquisite sensitivity of your senses, your memory will be all you have.  Save it up, and enjoy it while you have it.  If you have a tape recorder, let it run during the event, and you will be astounded at the lack of control you displayed during totality.

    During totality ONLY, take off your filters and stare at the eclipsed sun.  Burn the image into your brain, because you have never seen anything like this, and you never will again (unless you travel to see another eclipse!).  This is one of those moments where you have to put your brain on "record" mode, block everything else out, and just store up the sight for the rest of your life.  Believe me, ten, twenty, thirty years later, that sight will still be there, and you want to soak up every second now, while you can.  Listen to the people around you screaming and yelling like fools, and don't be afraid to offer a few screams of your own - no one will care, and everyone you share this sight with will understand.

    The eclipse will progress, and soon you'll see the right side of the eclipsed sun's disk start to brighten.  It's going away - get your filters ready, because as soon as the diamond ring shows up again on the other side, you need your filters again!  Put them on, say goodbye to the eclipse, think good thoughts about the folks to your east who are now getting the show for themselves, and call your travel agent to get to the next eclipse (which happens to be on 2 July 2019 in the middle of the south pacific - a great excuse for a cruise!!)

    When it's all over, make a point to go up to as many people as you can, and thank them for sharing this most special life-experience with you.  And don't forget to look in the paper the next day at the pictures that will undoubtedly be there - and laugh at how absolutely impotent they are in capturing the event that you remember from the day before!

    Then, come back to and leave your thoughts and recollections for us!

    See, we told you so!  Uh, huh, you know what we mean now...!  "When's the next one?"


    Here is how to find out when you'll be seeing all this cool stuff!

    First, you can download the app! This will tell you EASILY whether you are in the path, and what time the phases of the eclipse will happen for you!

    You can go here to select your city or location from a static list.  What follows below is a little better, in that you can find your EXACT eclipse circumstances for ANY location.

    How do you tell when the eclipse is going to happen where you are?  First, go to the Google Interactive Map and zoom in on your location just like you do with any Google map.  On this Interactive Map, though, whenever you click on a point, you’ll get a popup window like what you see in the picture below.  This has lots of information about the eclipse’s exact circumstances for the location you clicked on, which has been calculated for you on the fly thanks to Xavier Jubier's wonderful 5MCSE eclipse tool.  You may not care about lots of that info, but if you mouse over the picture below, you’ll see some things highlighted that you definitely do care about:  the times for the various major events of totality!




    Of course, you should first check to see that you are getting a total eclipse in your location.  If you’ve selected a place within the dark band, then there should be no problem, but you’ll see visual confirmation of that in the info bubble with the picture of the totally eclipsed sun, the fact that you have times shown for C2, mid-eclipse, and C3, and up there at the top (just right of center) you'll see the duration of totality for your location (you want lots of that!).  You'll also see that your "Obscuration" is 100.00% - just what you want!

    If you don’t see all of the above, then you do not have a total eclipse, and that location you clicked on is NOT where you want to be on eclipse day! If the eclipse will not be total for you, then you will not see all the stupendous, marvelous things that a total eclipse brings, you will have to use your eclipse viewing glasses for the entire duration of the eclipse, and you will walk away from the experience wondering what all the fuss was all about. So don’t miss out – get into the path of totality and treat yourself to the best show on earth!

    The various times listed in the table are all in UT, or Universal Time.  This is a reference ‘time zone’ used by astronomers, and is basically just the time in Greenwich, England, if they didn’t change to Daylight Time in the summer.  All we really care about is how to convert UT to the time we see on our clocks, and this is simple:  Take the time in UT and do this:

    • subtract 7 hours if you’re in the Pacific Time Zone
    • subtract 6 hours if you’re in the Mountain Time Zone
    • subtract 5 hours if you’re in the Central Time Zone
    • subtract 4 hours if you’re in the Eastern Time Zone


    (If you’re in any other time zone, and the eclipse is total for you, then you’re in the middle of the ocean!)

    So if you’re in Oregon and the time says 17:19:27.3 (which just happens to be C2 in the picture), then that event is going to happen at 10:19:27.3am.  Give or take!


    But what are the events?

    Before we describe them, let us also once again reiterate that you MUST USE PROPER EYE PROTECTION whenever you are looking at the sun, whenever any bright part of it is visible. This means that if the eclipse is not total for you, you ALWAYS have to use filters.  If the eclipse is total, then you HAVE to use filters during every portion of the eclipse except when the eclipse is TOTAL.  We will describe that very carefully below. But remember, you have to use safe, effective, correct, proven filters designed especially for direct solar viewing. You can get them from, but by eclipse day there should be many outlets available, and we will keep you apprised of those. The filters most people will use look a lot like cheap cardboard sunglasses, but they are NOT regular sunglasses! Their “lenses” are made of a very special material that blocks out essentially all of the sun’s harmful light and radiation, and makes it safe to look directly through them at the sun itself. YOU CANNOT USE REGULAR SUNGLASSES, or anything else that you may hear about through the grapevine, to look through directly at the sun. If what you are using does not say that it is approved for direct solar viewing, then you are gambling your eyes on using it, and that is a bet you will lose. Please use only the proper viewing filters made by Rainbow Symphony or other reputable scientific, astronomical manufacturers. They only cost like a dollar (!), and they are the right tool for the job.

    C1 (“First Contact”): The instant that the first very small bite is taken out of the sun’s disk by the moon. Before this time, you can see NOTHING to indicate to you in any way that there’s going to be an eclipse, so don’t try. And at this time, the sun is also blazing away brightly, and you MUST USE PROPER PROTECTION in front of your eyes when looking at it.

    C2 (“Second Contact”): This is the most anticipated time – the beginning of totality! In the five minutes preceding this time, a lot of really cool visual stuff happens all around you, and the thin sliver of sun shrinks to nothing as totality approaches.  But because there is still this very thin sliver of sun showing, you still CANNOT look at the sun without filters before C2! After the diamond ring blazes for the few seconds that it will be visible, then you can take your filters off and enjoy totality.

    AFTER C2, and BEFORE C3, you CAN look right at the totally eclipsed sun without any filters at all. (In fact, you have to, or you won’t see anything!) This period of totality is only a very short time – a couple of minutes, or maybe less depending on where you are. But this is the ONLY time it is safe for you to stare directly at the most beautiful sight in the sky.

    Mid-eclipse: The halfway point between C2 and C3. Totality is half over at this time. Enjoy what you have left!

    C3 (“Third Contact”): The time we all hate – the end of totality. The moon moves slightly off the face of the sun, and the diamond ring pops back into view as the first rays of the sun poke back through at us from a valley on the moon. When these rays come out, so must your filters. From C3 on, you HAVE TO USE EYE PROTECTION AGAIN to look at the sun, because now it’s not in total eclipse any more.

    C4 (“Fourth Contact”): The moon leaves the sun’s disk, and the last bite disappears. Not very many people notice this event, because it is a complete "who cares" after you’ve seen totality.

    One more time: The ONLY time it is safe to look directly at the sun without eye protection is when it is TOTAL eclipse. For this to happen, you must be in a spot where totality is going to happen in the first place, and the sun must actually BE totally eclipsed! This will happen between the times noted above as C2 and C3, but of course, you must use your common sense instead of your watch to tell exactly: If ANY PART of the sun’s disk is out (bright and not eclipsed), you HAVE to use your filters to look.

    What about all those other numbers on the display? Here is a recap if you’re interested:

    • Lat/lon of the selected point is given at the top left.

    • Umbral depth: Zero at the edge of the path of totality, this increases to 100% at the center line.

    • Obscuration: How much of the sun’s area is covered at mid-eclipse.

    • Magnitude: How much of the sun’s diameter is covered at mid-eclipse (this is not the same as the above!).

    • Size ratio: The moon’s apparent area divided by the sun’s apparent area in the sky.

    • DeltaT: A very complicated thing to describe; astronomers use it to be able to compensate in their calculations for the fact that the earth’s rotation over time is not perfectly constant or stable. Unimportant to you, as a casual observer.

    • Alt: How high in the sky the sun is.

    • Azi: Where the sun is located (North=0, East=90, etc)

    • P and V: The orientation of the centers of the sun’s and moon’s disks, given in degrees counter-clockwise from the sun’s North point (P) and as an “o’clock” position as seen from the given location (12.0 is at the top of the disk, 6.0 is at the bottom of the disk, etc).

    • LC: Limb Correction (if available) – a correction factor to the contact times based on the irregularity of the moon’s edge (mountains, craters, etc.). Of interest mainly to eggheads. is soliciting assistance from interested individuals who may want to act as local providers of video feeds, photos, webcasts,
    site surveys, etc., on and before eclipse day. Contact us if you're willing to help!

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