Philly Guide to the Solar Eclipse
On Monday, August 21, approximately 500 million Americans will have the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse, an event that hasn’t occurred since 1991. A total solar eclipse is seen when the sun, the moon, and the Earth line up exactly so that the moon casts a shadow over the Earth.
The path of the eclipse where its viewing will be most clear will begin in Oregon 10:15am PDT and travel south and east, ending in South Carolina at 2:36pm EDT. This means that the following states are in the path of totality of the eclipse, and their residents will have the best view of this incredible phenomenon: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Fortunately for us in the Philadelphia region, we can still see the eclipse, at least partially. It is important to remember that it is not safe to look directly at the Sun at any time, as it could cause permanent damage to the eyes. This is especially significant for us in Philadelphia because we are not on the eclipse’s path of totality when the moon entirely blocks out the sun’s light.
Even ordinary sunglasses would not provide enough protection to the eyes from the sun’s harmful rays to view the eclipse. For this reason, a wide array of retailers and vendors have special eclipse glasses available for purchase. There are other ways to view the total solar eclipse which may require a little more work. For example, you can make your own pinhole camera, or you can project the sun using a telescope. There will also be viewing parties and events on Monday in Philadelphia at locations such as the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, the Franklin Institute, the Wagner Free Institute, and West Oak Lane Library.
Total solar eclipses are unique and important opportunities for us to learn new things about the sun and the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists will be using a sophisticated camera onboard a Gulfstream V jet on Monday to maximize the time they can observe the event. The extra time that the jet will spend in the moon’s shadow will be spent collecting data that cannot easily be gathered by scientists on the ground. With the help of the Gulfstream V, and astronomers and citizen scientists below, the total solar eclipse will provide us with information about our universe that we have never seen before.
In fact, eclipses have helped us make discoveries about space for centuries. A total solar eclipse just like the one we will see once helped to confirm Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. On May 29, 1919, an experiment that occurred during what the European Space Agency refers to as “probably the most important eclipse in the history of science“ changed the way we consider space.
In 1915, Einstein formulated a theory that stated that space and time join to create a “fabric” through which objects travel. He claimed that the space-time fabric could be warped by the masses and motions of these objects, the same way that a trampoline would find itself stretched as the weight of a person falls on it. This theory negated Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that space is inert, which led most scientists to reject Einstein’s claim. However, the total solar eclipse of 1919 was the perfect opportunity to test the theory of relativity. The darkness of totality allowed scientists to measure the positions of the stars near the sun. When these measurements were compared to the stars’ usual positions, the experiment confirmed the curvature of space-time, trumping Newton’s widely-accepted theory.
Don’t miss out on this spectacular event, but remember to be safe while looking at the eclipse.
- An idea of the eclipse’s trajectory—https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/eclipse.htm
- A list of reputable eclipse glasses vendors– https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters
- Instructions on how to view the eclipse safely on your own— http://solar-center.stanford.edu/observe/Safely-Observing-the-Sun-for-Yourself.pdf.
Formerly a tutor for student athletes, Ilse Garcia Romero is a freelance writer from Cherry Hill, NJ. She earned her Master’s Degree in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin and holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University. Ilse is passionate about education and helping students reach their academic potential.