By Kathy Hughes
The Beatles sang “Here comes the sun,” but on Aug. 21 beginning at 1:17 p.m., our sun will start to disappear in a solar eclipse. The shadow relentlessly devouring the sun belongs to the moon as it crosses between the earth and the sun.
Although usually I am fascinated by science, I must admit that astronomy is out of my league. With the earth spinning on its axis, tilting in various directions as it revolves around the sun and the moon circling the earth in a cycle of phases, I admit that my eyes glaze over and I begin to feel light headed. There is much about the cosmos that is beyond my comprehension.
For instance, it was news to me that a solar eclipse is always accompanied by a lunar eclipse, which by this time, I’ve missed it — sorry about that. Well, I’m not too sorry, because, although it occurred on Aug. 7, it was not visible anywhere in the United States, anyway. This is because the moon was below our horizon at that time.
Solar eclipses occur during the “new” or dark phase of the moon. I never thought about it, but it makes sense if the moon is between the earth and the sun. The shadow will travel beginning in Oregon, across Idaho, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, then down through Kentucky and Tennessee. The shadow will exit the North American continent at Charleston, S.C.
Unfortunately, again, the Central New York area will view only a partial solar eclipse, and only locations to the west and then south of us will experience a total eclipse. The best location to view the whole thing will be the Nashville, Tenn., area.
Not to worry, first of all, even the partial eclipse will be dramatic, as the sunlight will be dimmed by more than our customary dark cloud. The stars will come out, the birds will stop singing, and it will be noticeably dark. Secondly, the full eclipse will be broadcast online as well as on television, for all to see. Web addresses are available at the end of this article.
Especially during a partial eclipse, do not look up at the sun. Although it is a natural impulse to look up to see why it is getting dark, your eyes can be permanently damaged. Be sure to explain this to children. Special viewing glasses are the only safe way to watch the eclipse, and these are available free only at the Fayetteville Public Library. They are offered for purchase, on order, at various retailers.
Partial or not, much will be made of this eclipse. It will be the first time in 38 years that this phenomenon can be viewed in any of the 48 states — the last one was in 1979. So this will be a first for the younger generations, and it will be another seven years when Syracusans can view another solar eclipse, and this time we will have a total eclipse to view. There’s something to look forward to!
All of this is dependent on the weather, and the tentative forecast for Syracuse includes a chance of showers. Let’s hope for the best!
Web sites pertaining to solar eclipse:*