There will be a partial eclipse of the sun on Thursday, October 23, peaking at around 6:27 pm EDT. It should be visible to most people in North America, particularly those living in the northern United States and Canada. The best view will be up in the arctic, where the Sun will be 80% eclipsed.
Though the moon orbits Earth, which in turn orbits the sun, the three bodies do not always line up due to irregularities in those orbits. Every so often, the new moon will travel directly between the Earth and sun, creating a solar eclipse. Thursday’s event is a partial, meaning the moon will not completely block the sun and create a ring of fire effect. Still, it will be an exciting experience to view.
Frank Espenak of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center created this image to explain where to view the eclipse, along with how much of the eclipse can be expected to be seen.
Image credit: Frank Espenak/NASA/GSFC
It is very important to note that it is incredibly dangerous to try to view a solar eclipse directly. Looking directly at the Sun can cause irreparable damage to the retina, particularly if looking through binoculars or a telescope. Astronomers and experienced skywatchers use solar filters on their telescopes or use specialized glasses to safely view solar eclipses directly. This equipment can sometimes get expensive, but a pinhole camera is an effective, inexpensive way to view the eclipse indirectly.
To make a pinhole camera, punch a small hole into a piece of cardboard or heavy, dark paper that will block out most of the light. Hold a white piece of paper a few feet away, altering the distance in order to focus the eclipsed sunlight. The end result should be something like this:
Image credit: Eugene Kim
If you don’t live in an area where the the eclipse can be viewed or don’t have the means to view the eclipse safely, the Slooh Community Observatory will be doing a live webcast of the event starting at 5:00 pm EDT. You will be able to view the event right here. Use #SloohPartialSolar in social media to join the conversation.
Thursday’s event is the last solar eclipse of 2014. The next one will be a total eclipse on March 20, 2015. It will be visible in the Arctic and throughout northern Europe and Asia. Until then, be sure to check out the IFLS skywatching guide for 2014 so you don’t miss out on any of the final sky watching events of the year.