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Six observations on watching the sky (safely) during the solar eclipse

On August 21, in what NASA calls the “Great American Eclipse,” along a strip of territory running from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, only the glimmering corona of the sun will be visible as it is blocked by the moon.

 

View the eclipse only with special glasses or material intended and recommended for that purpose.

Safety: Protect your eyes

Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse, when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. That occurs only within the narrow path of totality. The safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Sunglasses won't cut it, nor will just taking a quick peek. Be safe, don't damage your eyes. Follow the safety instructions on the NASA website.

Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature's most awe-inspiring sights–a total solar eclipse. (Courtesy of NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)

In the Path of Totality

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. The path of totality, where the moon will completely obscure the sun, will stretch from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse as the moon covers part of the sun's disk. This is the first solar eclipse to move across the entire continental U.S. since 1918. To find out when to view the eclipse and see where you are in relation to the path of totality, check out this interactive map or this printable map, both from NASA.

Photographed by the Expedition 31 crew aboard the International Space Station and easily spotted at top center in this image is the gray shadow of the moon, cast on bright clouds of the northern Pacific Ocean, as the May 20, 2012, solar eclipse point tracked towards the Aleutian Islands and then on to northern California. (NASA Photo)

The Earth During an Eclipse

The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite collects and distributes remotely sensed land, ocean, and atmospheric data to various meteorological communities. Operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, SNPP orbits Earth about 14 times each day and observes nearly the entire surface. The SNPP satellite will transmit data about the environmental effects of the eclipse on Earth. Raytheon's Joint  Polar Satellite System’s Common Ground System provides all of SNPP's mission planning, command and control, and data processing.

A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. (Courtesy of NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring)

Night and Day in HD

During the eclipse, SNPP will fly over Missouri, providing pictures of the eclipse’s shadow using Raytheon's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which may be able to capture lights in U.S. cities. The images will be available to the public about three hours later. Besides providing meteorologists highly detailed information for forecasting and emerging global storm patterns, VIIRS generates high-fidelity sea, land and atmospheric data for a variety of other applied products, including monitoring of wildfires, drought, flooding, vegetation health, algal blooms and nighttime phenomena.

A medium-sized "M2" flare and a coronal mass ejection erupted from the same, large active region of the sun on July 14, 2017. The flare lasted almost two hours, a long duration for such an event. (NASA photo)

avoiding a rainout

Raytheon's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System provides meteorologists at more than 140 National Weather Service offices across the nation the information they need to make increasingly accurate weather predictions and to dispense rapid, highly reliable warnings and advisories. AWIPS will also help weather forecasters better predict where cloudy skies might prevent viewing the eclipse, especially along the path of totality. The National Weather Service will use this data on a website to help the public better plan trips for viewing. NOAA also published a map showing the chances of viewing the total solar eclipse, based on historical cloudiness data.

The SNPP satellite should be photographing a 3,000-kilometer swath when Nashville is experiencing its total solar eclipse.

Satellite that Snaps Eclipse Pics

Polar satellites take predictable paths. This image above depicts the path of the NOAA-owned, NASA-operated SNPP satellite as it passes over the southeastern United States on August 21 during the solar eclipse. The blue rectangle represents Raytheon’s VIIRS view over the area during the eclipse, which provides the unique chance to measure differences between daytime and nighttime observations simultaneously. SNPP orbits the Earth 14 times a day and produces an image of the Earth twice a day.

Last Updated: 08/14/2017

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