June 26 – July 9, 2017
Mount Washington — Everyone in the United States will experience, at minimum, a partial eclipse of the Sun on August 21, 2017. In previous “Eyes to the Sky” columns, I introduced maps that showed the areas of the country where the full eclipse will be visible, known as the path of totality, and the varying degrees of partial eclipse in all other locations. In the Berkshires, a partial eclipse will be visible.
The following short animations reveal the astronomy, wonder and mystery behind a total eclipse of the sun. These animations introduce what has been described as the most profound encounter with nature possible in human experience. The first is a 1 minute 14 second PBS simulation that describes the science. It is followed by a 30-second photographic animation that takes your breath away, produced by astronomer Jay Pasachoff.
And click HERE for Professor Pasachoff’s animation of a total solar eclipse.
What you will see if you stay at home in the Berkshires is a partial eclipse that progresses to the crescent phase of the sun – described as “first contact” in the PBS animation – and the return to full sun. Professor Pasachoff offers, “First contact and fourth contact, but not the interesting part, which is between 2nd and 3rd contacts.” He continues, “It’s fine for people to glance through a special solar filter every five or ten minutes during the partial eclipse on August 21 here in Berkshire County, but it isn’t spectacular and nothing changes very fast.”
To further inform your decision about whether to travel to the path of totality to observe the Great American Solar Eclipse, consider the comparisons between the experience of partial and total eclipse that follow: the first made by Pasachoff and the second by writer Annie Dillard.
“Some people see a partial eclipse and wonder why others talk so much about a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse and saying that you have seen an eclipse is like standing outside an opera house and saying that you have seen the opera; in both cases, you have missed the main event.” Astronomer Jay M. Pasachoff*
“A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it.” Writer Annie Dillard**
In our backyard, the partial eclipse begins at about 1:25 p.m. on Monday the 21st of August, less than two months from now. At maximum eclipse, 2:45 p.m., the Sun will be a crescent of light, 72 percent darkened. That’s 1 hour 20 minutes from inception to peak. It will take another 1 hour 15 minutes for the sun to return to full. The partial eclipse ends at 3:58 p.m.
Eyes must be protected from the Sun’s light if you are to look directly at it or, alternatively, by devising ways to see it indirectly. Inexpensive cardboard-framed, sunlight-filtering lenses are readily available, as are instructions for creating devices for solar projection: the former illustrated in the Pasachoff photograph that opens this article and the latter in the closing photograph.
*1983 quote from https://mreclipse.com/Totality3/TotalityCh01.html
**Annie Dillard, The Abundance, HarperCollins, 2016, page 7, paragraph 2
PBS NOVA – https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ess05.sci.ess.eiu.totaleclipse/total-solar-eclipse-animation/#.WUyE1kMYvol
Jay M. Pasachoff – https://web.williams.edu/Astronomy/eclipse/eclipse2001/2001total/index.html
Three compelling audio clips about total eclipse:
Academic Minute with Professor Jay Pasachoff – https://academicminute.org/2015/03/jay-pasachoff-williams-college-todays-total-solar-eclipse/
Astronomer Bob Berman total solar eclipse audio 2 minutes 30 seconds – https://wamc.org/post/strnge-universe-052117
Writer Annie Dillard reads from her experience of a total solar eclipse as part of a 14-minute interview – https://www.wnyc.org/story/david-remnick-speaks-annie-dillard/
Viewing details for all United States locations – https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html
About Jay Pasachoff’s eclipse expedition plans, “Eyes to the Sky”, May 1, 2017 https://theberkshire.wpengine.com/eyes-to-the-sky-williams-college-astronomer-prepares-for-solar-eclipse/; Introduction to the 2017 solar eclipse, “Eyes to the Sky”, April 18, 2016 https://theberkshire.wpengine.com/eyes-sky-chasing-north-americas-upcoming-solar-eclipse/; International Astronomical Union (IAU), Jay M. Pasachoff, Chair of the IAU Working Group on Solar Eclipses – https://sites.williams.edu/iau-eclipses/
Eye protection- https://www.space.com/35555-total-solar-eclipse-safety-tips.html and https://www.eclipse2017.org/eclipse2017_eye%20safety.htm and solar projection https://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how-to-view-eclipse
June 20 release of United States Postal Service 2017 Eclipse Forever Stamp – https://about.usps.com/news/nationalreleases/2017/pr17_020.htm