Total Solar Eclipse a rare, once-in-a-lifetime experience

Art Weber

        There are special things in nature that happen every once in a while, others that come around every few years, and a very few that we can say with certainty that they are a once-in-a-lifetime event.
        Next Monday is one of those one in a lifetime days. Go to your calendar and, if you haven’t already, write in Total Solar Eclipse, Monday, April 8, 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Make sure you’re outside during the totality phase, which, depending on your location, will start about 3:10 p.m. and last about two-and-one-half minutes
        Millions of people will travel hundreds of miles, even more, to view this rare event. It’s estimated a half-million people will come to Ohio to witness the total eclipse. We’re lucky. Most of us can simply walk out our back doors and look up.
        That happens, like, almost never.
        Consider that the last total eclipse to touch the United States was in 2017. They called it the Great American Eclipse because it was only visible in the United States, cutting a swath that averaged about 65 miles wide from the coast of Oregon to coastal South Carolina.
        April 8 will be another Great American Eclipse, stretching from Mexico, extending into Texas and following an arcing path over 100 miles wide to Ohio. It then taking a more eastward path directly over Lake Erie and on to Canada’s Maritime Provinces. In all, the path will cross 13 states.
        Everyone in the lower 48 states will see a partial eclipse. Seattle, for example, despite its location 2,000 miles away from the path of totality, will see 20 percent coverage.
        But a partial eclipse is said to be a yawner compared to having a seat in the path of totality. Veteran eclipse observers will tell you even observing from mere miles outside the path of totality will be disappointing. Nothing, it’s said, compares to the experience of witnessing totality.
        Witnessing totality treats you to views of the sun’s corona as you’ve never seen it before, and likely never will again. Check the internet for images of Baily’s Beads and the Diamond Ring, arguably the most dramatic scenes to witness. They occur in the moments just before and after totality. And, yes, keep that eye protection on. It’s a must even to observe both of those effects.
        You’ll also want to take note of things happening around you in the moments during and around totality. Things that will help you understand the panic earlier cultures must have experienced, watching their sun disappear, night arrive in the middle of the day, stars appearing in the sky.
        Those who witnessed the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse describe the surreal experience of the murky darkness, the rising sounds of crickets and katydids breaking into their nighttime songs, dogs barking as though confused and sounding an alarm and wildlife behaving strangely. The temperature will drop, the wind may rise or shift.
        Ancient cultures struggled to understand eclipses. There were some who believed the sun was attacked by a giant serpent; others blamed wolves. To others, it was thought the gods were expressing their anger by taking the sun away. Evil was certainly involved.
        We know better now.
        And we know there are things you should do in advance. First and foremost, make sure you prevent eye injury by having and using solar glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standard. Dark sunglasses aren’t nearly dark enough. If you’re shooting photos, you’ll need a filter to the same standards to prevent damage both to your eyes and the camera’s collector.
        It’s a good idea to do some test images to make sure you’re getting the results you want. And it’s a very good idea to make sure you’re heading for a location with unobscured viewing. That’s easy. Just go there on the next sunny day at about 3 p.m. and check the position of the sun.
        The internet is loaded with great information on eclipses, events associated with the eclipse, and tips on viewing. One of the best sites is the National Solar Observatory, which includes a great map to click on your exact location and the precise times for the eclipse.
        Look for it at


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