It’s solar eclipse time next Thursday, June 10! It’s been a while since we’ve had a solar eclipse around here. The last one was Aug. 21, 2017. Here in Rochester, it was a partial eclipse, but in a strip from Oregon to South Carolina, it was a total eclipse. Maybe some of you were somewhere along the totality path. My wife and I and some wonderful friends watched it from a farm outside of Ravenna, Neb. That was one of the best days of my life! If you ever get a chance to see one, do it! Words can’t describe the experience.
We won’t have a total solar eclipse here next Thursday, but we will have a partial solar eclipse. If you want to see a total solar eclipse that day, jump on a plane to either eastern Russia, the Arctic Ocean, western Greenland, or eastern Canada. It won’t quite be a total eclipse in Nova Scotia. (Remember that line in the 1970 Carly Simon hit "You’re So Vain"?)
Anyway, this is an unusual total eclipse. The moon’s disk will be too small to cover the entire disk of the sun. This is called an annular total solar eclipse. The moon’s disk isn’t large enough because the eclipse is occurring during the moon’s monthly maximum distance from Earth. During totality, the sun will look like a bright doughnut.
Many portions of the northern and eastern United States will see a partial eclipse. We’re lucky to be included, although it will be very short. In Minnesota, the eclipse will begin a little before 4 a.m. Don’t set your alarm, because obviously, the sun won’t be up by then! By the time the sun rises a little at 5:26 a.m., the sun will already be about 20% covered up on the lower left side of the sun’s disk. Not only will that be the peak of the eclipse for us, but by 5:45 a.m., it’ll all be over as the moon’s disk backs out. Them’s the breaks!
As with any eclipse, you never want to stare directly at the sun! You can easily do permanent damage to your eyes in a very short time. With binoculars or a telescope, you could go permanently blind in less than a second! The only way to view it directly is with special eclipse glasses. Maybe you still have a pair around the house from the 2017 eclipse.
If you don’t have those glasses, you can try the projection method. As you see in the diagram, hold a piece of white cardboard with a pinhole in it over another piece of stiff white cardboard. White fiberboard works well, too. The best and safest way to aim the piece with the pinhole at the black card is to stand with your back to the sun and hold the pinhole piece back toward the sun. Use the shadow of the cardboard to aim it over the blank cardboard, and you should be able to see the eclipse with absolutely no danger. It really works!
Mark your calendars for April 8, 2024, for a major United States total eclipse. If you’re like me and don’t mind traveling a bit to see a total solar eclipse, there will be a broad band of totality from Texas to New England.
If your retirement holds out long enough, there will finally be a total solar eclipse in Minnesota in 2099!
Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul and is author of the book, “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations” published by Adventure Publications. Send questions to email@example.com.
The Rochester Astronomy Club welcomes new members and puts on public star parties. Their website is rochesterskies.org.