On Thursday, October 23, most of North America will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. Things start getting dark in the late afternoon, and viewing will start around 6PM EDT. You can find the time of the eclipse in your area on this chart from NASA.
Of course, when I went to see when the best viewing time would be for my area in New England, I found out that I was out of luck. The eclipse will happen just after the sun sets. Thankfully, we all live in the age of technology. Many observatories will be doing live webcasts of the event. These include Slooh, Griffith Observatory, and the Coca-Cola Space Science Center.
What exactly is a partial solar eclipse? Well, a solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, and lines up just right so that it blocks the light from the sun from reaching us on Earth. A total solar eclipse will block the entire sun, so that it looks like this:
A partial eclipse, like the one happening on Thursday, will look like the moon is taking a bite out of the sun, like this:
There are many ways to observe a solar eclipse, but one definite, absolutely WRONG way to do it: YOU SHOULD NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN WITHOUT PROPER EQUIPMENT. Do not watch a solar eclipse even with sunglasses. Never. No way, no how. This will cause permanent damage to your eyes. Instead, go to this website and find out how to build your own easy sun viewer.
Hope everyone has fun watching one of our solar system’s finest shows!