Four women wearing eclipse glasses sitting on the Slope with the tower in the background

Eclipse Tips from Big Red Astronomers

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Many eyes (wearing appropriate glasses!) will be pointed to the sky on April 8—so here’s a primer from two profs

By Beth Saulnier

Excitement is rising for the total solar eclipse that will be viewable in a large swath of the U.S. on the afternoon of April 8—including Upstate New York. (Sadly, the Ithaca campus will see only a partial version.)

Below are some fascinating facts and viewing tips, courtesy of Cornell astronomers Lisa Kaltenegger and Michael Niemack!

Kaltenegger is the founding director of the Carl Sagan Institute, a Cornell-based organization dedicated to finding life in the universe. Niemack’s research focuses on developing instruments to study the cosmos, including work on the Cornell-led CCAT Observatory and the Atacama Cosmology Telescope.

Handy Tips on the Solar Eclipse

• A solar eclipse happens when the alignment of the moon blocks the sun’s light from our view on Earth; if all the light is blocked, it’s a total eclipse.

• The path of the total solar eclipse on April 8 will stretch diagonally in a narrow band from Texas to Maine.

• To protect your eyes from damage, special glasses are required to view the eclipse when it’s not in totality.

• No special glasses? You can punch a small hole in a piece of cardboard to project the crescent-shaped pattern of the partial eclipse onto the ground, like a pinhole camera.

Scenes from the 2017 Eclipse

• Museums and other organizations in the eclipse’s path are planning special events around it, and may be good sources for viewing glasses and educational info—so check your local listings!

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• During the total eclipse, the only part of the sun that will be visible is its atmosphere, called the corona—which, at millions of degrees in temperature, is even hotter than its surface.

• Solar eclipses can last from a few seconds to about seven minutes. For viewers located in the core shadow, the upcoming one will be four minutes long.

• While they may seem rare, there are actually two to five solar eclipses annually—and a total one about every 18 months. But given that 70% of the Earth is covered in water, they’re not often seen in populated areas.

The path of the total solar eclipse on April 8 will stretch diagonally in a narrow band from Texas to Maine.

• Over the centuries, total eclipses have helped advance scientific knowledge, including the discovery of helium.

• Eclipses can have disorienting effects on animals, who react as if night has suddenly fallen.

• The next total eclipse that can be viewed from the U.S. will happen on August 23, 2044—though the totality will only be seen in Alaska, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota.

• The next total eclipse to be seen in a significant portion of the continental U.S. will happen on August 12, 2045.

• Itching to see the longest total eclipse ever predicted, lasting a whopping seven and a half minutes? Set your calendar for … July 16, 2186.

• Plus: if you're coming to campus for Commencement, Reunion, or a casual visit over the next few months, you'll have the chance to view an eclipse-themed exhibit in Kroch Library! Here's a sneak peek:

'Solar Eclipses: From Fear to Knowledge'

Top: Viewing the 2017 eclipse on the Slope. All photos by Joe Wilensky / Cornell University, unless indicated. Exhibit images courtesy of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

Published March 26, 2024


Comments

  1. Peggy Stevens

    Where on campus are solar eclipse glasses available?

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