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How To Best Experience The Great Total Solar Eclipse

17 June 2017, 7:28 am EDT By Luan Chan Tech Times
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The Great American Total Solar Eclipse is happening on Aug. 21 across the United States. Here are some tips on how to make the most of the viewing experience.  ( Arne Danielson | NASA )

Total solar eclipses are not really that rare since it happens periodically, but it has been almost a century since one swept over the United States, making the Great American Solar Eclipse a true must-watch phenomenon for those in its path of totality.

Since the much-awaited total solar eclipse that will be seen across the United States is just nine weeks away, Tech Times has prepared a list of tips to make the experience more memorable.

Here are five things to keep in mind before and during the eclipse.

Location Matters

As already mentioned, the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will sweep across the United States, but that doesn't mean everyone will get the chance to see it. Various agencies and institutions have already plotted out the eclipse's path for everyone, so it's only a matter of finding the most suitable viewing location.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the eclipse's path of totality is about a 70-mile-wide stretch from the West to the East Coast. The eclipse will begin from Lincoln Beach in Oregon and travel across 14 states until it exits at Charleston, South Carolina. Take a look at NASA's map below.

The Great American Solar Eclipse's path of totality, as mapped by NASA.
(Photo : NASA) The Great American Solar Eclipse's path of totality, as mapped by NASA.

Other states will also see the eclipse, but they will only get to experience a partial eclipse. Here is NASA's table of eclipse times.

(Photo : NASA)

Do Your Homework

There is nothing more depressing than going to a supposedly nice viewing location along the path of totality only for nature to flush all preparations down the drain.

Since the total eclipse is high in the sky, it is best to learn the locations that could throw the least viewing obstacles, such as bad weather or a thick veil of clouds. Luckily, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a 10-year historical "cloud map" containing data from weather stations in the United States. See the map below.

Ten-year historical cloud map made by NOAA for the Aug. 21 eclipse.
(Photo : NOAA) Ten-year historical cloud map made by NOAA for the Aug. 21 eclipse.

Just to make it clear, lighter dots mean less cloud formations and darker dots mean higher chance of cloud formations. Even with the historical data and detailed map, however, it is important to still stay tuned to weather forecasts as the big day approaches.

Use Proper Equipment

No matter how dark it gets when the total solar eclipse finally happens, it is important to remember that people should never ever look at the sun directly. There are plenty of other ways to view the phenomenon, from watching its reflection in a basin of water to wearing special eclipse viewing glasses — and no, regular sunglasses are not proper viewing eyewear.

Cameras and telescopes already have existing lenses that are deemed safe to use for viewing and taking photos of the eclipse, but there are also cheaper ways to see the eclipse. Contact local science centers and museums if they have any eclipse viewing glasses available. If that is not an option, a simple cereal box and foil projector can also be used.

Watch Out For Side Events

So Aug. 21 arrived and everyone is in their chosen viewing locations. Watching the eclipse itself is already a wonderful experience, but it can get even better if people know what else to watch out for. There are other interesting instances to see before, during, and as the eclipse ends, and they are called "contact times."

There are four contact times (C1 to C4) from first contact to the end of the event. Sometime between C1 and C2, two other events happen, but only those in the path of totality have the privilege of actually seeing them. Here are the four contact times and what people can expect to see when it happens:

C1: This is the point wherein the moon "touches" the sun.

• Diamond Ring: When only a small portion of the sun is left, the light around it could look like a diamond ring, hence the name.

• Bailey's Beads: When the moon is really close to covering the sun, some people would see the remaining light through the mountains and valleys of the moon, and the light appears like beads because of this. This happens very quickly, so people would miss it if they're not at full attention.

C2*: The moon completely covers the sun.

C3*: The sun begins to show again.

C4: The moon completely moves away from the sun.

• Shadow Bands: Sometime before C2 and right after C3, there's a rare phenomenon called shadow bands, which does not happen every total solar eclipse. During the times when the sun appears like a very thin crescent moon, the light could bend in a way that would make snake-like shadows appear on the ground. The phenomenon is still a mystery to scientists, and most video recordings are not as clear, so anyone with an HD camera may want to keep an eye out for it.

Enter The Twilight Zone ... Or Not

Humans would be watching the total solar eclipse in amazement, but some events may be lost on those who are too focused on watching the sun and moon in action. It is better to be sensitive to nature during the eclipse to experience the difference two and a half minutes would make.

When the eclipse finally happens, people would notice a sudden shift in nature and animal behavior. The temperature actually drops from a daytime to a nighttime one, but this may not be too noticeable since C2 will last less than three minutes. The winds, however, could suddenly change directions due to the temperature change, so watch out for it.

Animals are also affected by the eclipse, especially those that are naturally nocturnal. Birds and cicadas would become silent and turn in for the "night," and bats would begin their "nightly" hunt. Some animals would also make their way to their nightly resting places, as if convinced that it is already nighttime.

What To Do When The Path Of Totality Is Out Of Reach

Of course, not everyone would be lucky enough get the full total solar eclipse experience, but NASA has got it covered.

NASA will live stream the event in various platforms, so all one has to do is open up any of the agency's streaming platforms. Of course, they will also broadcast it in the agency's YouTube page, so watch out for it.

© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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