For those of you in the states enjoying a welcomed break from the summer sun, today you may just get more than you bargained for. As the moon passes this afternoon across the northern hemisphere, the usually invisible transition will make its mark in daylight as it eclipses part of the sun. And so long as the clouds stay clear of the view, you may just have an interesting afternoon show to look out for.
The partial solar eclipse is an often rare occurrence that arises when an off-center moon passes in front of the sun, casting a crescent shadow across the Earth. And while the eclipse will only be partial, unlike its total counterpart that completely blocks out rays from the sun, it will last for hours even before and after its maximum phase at sunset.
"Observers in the Central Time zone have the best view because the eclipse is in its maximum phase at sunset" NASA eclipse expert, Fred Espenak says. The partial eclipse will begin at 1:34pm PST this afternoon, when the moon begins to move across the face of the sun, but will continue through until 4:18pm approximately two hours before sunset. At its maximum at 2:59pm, the eclipse will cover nearly 52 percent of the sun's face just overhead to the west.
While all states, even those as far south as Florida and Texas, will have a visible view of the phenomena, those farther to the north and the west will have a much clearer view of the eclipse as it hangs low in the evening sky. In most areas, roughly 50% of the sun will be covered throughout the course of the eclipse, while northern states of the US will see 65% of the sun covered and those to the south will only see about 40% covered, as estimated by Universe Today.
The partial eclipse will be the last solar eclipse until the next total solar eclipse, expected to occur in August 2017. And while viewing parties for solar eclipses are often a bore, since you can't directly look into the event without damaging your eyes, researchers encourage onlookers to use protective eyewear and seek out special solutions for viewing the eclipse.
Precautions For the Partial Solar Eclipse
Staring into the eclipse, which will still allow nearly half of the sun's intense UV and light waves to pass through, can cause pain, permanent eye damage and even temporary or permanent blindness depending on the exposure of the light. In fact, NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak warns that partial eclipses may even be worse than total solar eclipses in that they undermine your natural reaction to avoid looking directly into the sun, making you more likely to stare directly into the eclipse of a prolonged period of time. Researchers, like those at NASA and National Geographic, are providing complimentary instructions on how to build a viewer to safely view the partial eclipse. And if you want in on the action you can find them HERE too!