Aug 16, 2017
BATAVIA — For a brief moment in time, the sun will be blotted out from the sky.
On Monday, a solar eclipse will block about 75 percent of the sun in parts of the U.S. — although the effect will be brief in the GLOW region.
Astronomy professor Aaron Steinhauer of Geneseo State College, said the skies would be a little bit darker depending on the time of the day, but it won’t be completely dark.
“I’ve only experienced one (solar eclipse), and it wasn’t in totality, but the striking thing to me was as the sunlight passed through the leaves in the trees, if you look down on the ground you noticed little (individual images of the disk of the sun),” he said.
According Steinhauer there are two types of eclipses: solar and lunar.
The lunar eclipse is much more commonly seen. The Sun is the lone source of light in the solar system, so a lunar eclipse is anytime the moon passes into the Earth’s shadow.
As a result the moon will appear to get a lot darker as it passes into the shadow. A solar eclipse, on the other hand, is when the Earth passes into the moon’s shadow.
“The moon’s shadow is a lot smaller than the Earth’s shadow,” he said. “So the entire Earth can’t fit into the moon’s shadow, which is why the eclipse’s path is actually a fairly narrow, 70-mile or so path that, in this case, travels across the United States.”
Although the moon does orbit around the Earth once a month, the orbital plane for this to happen often isn’t perfectly aligned. While they are close, the two orbits are about 5 degrees off, so usually the moon’s shadow will pass just above or below the Earth, and sometimes just miss it completely.
However, there are a couple times a year called the nodes when the moon is in the earth and sun’s orbital plane. If there is a new moon when the moon is crossing the nodes, a solar eclipse will happen.
Steinhauer added it was rare for the United States to be in the path of the eclipse — although a solar eclipse will happen once or twice a year somewhere in the world, it is a very localized event. The unusual thing about this eclipse is it happens to be moving across the entire continental United States.
The next solar eclipse will occur in 2024, but this one will be a total eclipse of the sun, and Batavia will be very close to the center line and have about two minutes of a total eclipse.
Looking at the sun with the naked eye can be dangerous — even during the eclipse — as it can blind someone in a short period of time. However, there are cheap eclipse glasses which people can procure, as well as welder’s helmets, which people can use to safely look at the sun when the eclipse occurs.
Richmond Memorial library will be distributing eclipse glasses today and Thursday at library eclipse-themed family programs, as well as on a first-come basis, at an eclipse-viewing lawn party hosted by the library on the afternoon of Aug. 21, after a brief safety demonstration.
Kelly March, children’s room library assistant, learned about the eclipse and education programs from NASA’s education outreach department.
Writing for the Richmond Memorial Library a request for glasses, NASA sent over 1,000 pairs.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that any other public library in the Buffalo area, Niagara or Orleans counties appear to have their finger on that pulse — no other libraries seem to be offering it in Western New York until you get to Jamestown, Geneseo and the Rochester area,” said Bob Conrad, library director. “We’re getting at least 30 phone calls per hour asking if we have glasses for distribution.”
Conrad said it was important to note that Richmond Memorial Library just doesn’t have glasses for the free distribution. It has a limited number of glasses available for those who attend the library programs today and tomorrow at 2:30 p.m.
During the eclipse viewing, the remaining glasses will be distributed at 1 p.m. and will be given out until they are gone.
“So people should make a reservation for any of the programs, including our eclipse viewing party in order to guarantee a set of glasses,” he said.