Frequently asked questions about the solar eclipse

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What exactly is an eclipse?

It’s simply the moon passing in front of the sun, creating a shadow over a small portion of the Earth. The area of totality is the spot that will be getting the full darkness of that shadow, while here in Connecticut we’ll be in a partial eclipse, which means the sun will be 67 percent covered. It’ll look like a crescent sun, sort of like the moon looks at times in the night sky, except many orders of magnitude brighter.

When is the best time to watch in Connecticut?

These times will vary slightly depending on where you are in the state, but just before 1:30 pm is when the sun will start becoming blocked by the moon. For the next hour or so, the sky will gradually get darker as the shadow increases. By 2:30 to 2:45, it’s at peak darkness, with the sun blocked by about 67 percent. Then, during the 3 o’clock hour, it’ll get brighter as the sun comes back out from behind the moon, and we return to normal by 4 pm.

Why do we need to wear special glasses?

We all know that staring at the sun is a terrible idea… but even with regular or polarized sunglasses, you can damage your eyes pretty quickly. NASA points out that sunglasses make it just dark enough so the light doesn’t cause pain to your eyes, but there is still damage being done. Also, looking at the sun with normal shades has too much glare off the sun. You can’t clearly see the disk, which means you’re not really seeing much of the eclipse.

The shades you need to watch the eclipse are ones that are called ISO certified. You can find them at many hardware stores like Lowes or Home Depot… I’ve also heard that Walmart and best buy are seeing them as well… the cardboard ones are one a dollar or two and get the job done, but if you splurge for the plastic ones, that could be slightly more. Amazon was in the news recently because they issued a recall of phony glasses that had been sold. Just make sure it has the ISO certification, and if you want to check right now, the reference number on the glasses should say 12312-2.

How awesome will it be?

It’s going to be pretty cool. Not every day do we see the sun essentially disappear in the daytime sky! People who have seen an eclipse in the past have stated how it really is awe-inspiring. This is the first total solar eclipse from coast to coast in the United States in 99 years, although we have had some eclipses come close to us more recently. The next one that’ll be near us is on April 8th of 2024, when the path of totality goes over northern New England.

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