The countdown to the August 21 solar eclipse has begun and Dean Mark Schneider, who is also a member of our physics faculty, has some suggestions. Although Collegeville is outside of the “path of totality” that would allow certain U.S. residents to see a completely obscured sun, local onlookers will be able to witness a partial solar eclipse in the mid-afternoon, reaching its peak at 2:44 p.m.
Schneider, an expert in the quantum properties of light, is planning to fly to Omaha and make his way to Grand Island, Neb., which falls within the “path of totality.” There, he and his family and friends will be able to witness the total solar eclipse, weather permitting.
At Ursinus, we may not be able to see a total eclipse, but the sun will still be obscured by 79.9% at its peak. Schneider shared a few safe ways to enjoy it.
Proper eye protection is essential when viewing the eclipse and the most direct way to look is through a pair of special glasses made specifically for looking at solar eclipses. If you are unable to get a hold of a pair of those, Schneider has suggested blanking out a mirror and leaving only a pea-sized space uncovered to get a pinhole image of the sun. You can then reflect the light through a window into a dark room. If the room is dark enough, there will be a clear projection on the wall.
Schneider has even been able to see sun spots with this method. He also suggested keeping your eye on the shadows cast by trees. You will start to notice that the shadows from leaves will start turning to crescent shapes.
It is very important not to look directly at the eclipse without eye protection, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy this exciting event on and around campus.
The next time the United States will see a total solar eclipse is 2024. —Mary Lobo