The Great American Eclipse!
It's finally here! The Great American Eclipse is about to occur and folks across the country are excited. As well they should be. This is the first "total" eclipse in the U.S. since 1979, and the first to cross from Coast to Coast since 1918! Here in our area, this will be the first solar eclipse of any kind since 1994...and the first total eclipse to pass nearby since 1970.
It is important to stress not to look directly at the sun today. It's not that the sun is any more dangerous to look at...you never want to stare at the sun. However, most of the time there's no reason to, but today there is. As a result, out of curiosity folks will be interested in looking...but you have to make sure you have the right glasses...the special ISO glasses with the number 12312-2 on them. Regular sunglasses will NOT work and can result in damage to your eyes. Even a few seconds of looking at the sun unprotected can result in at least temporary blindness so please be careful!
Our parent company will be broadcasting a nationwide segment on our website starting at 12:30 pm and locally we will offer a live look at Charleston starting at 1 pm so you can safely view the eclipse inside without the need for glasses.
Wondering about pets? They should be ok. Since they don't know what's happening they will likely just assume it's evening and won't be impelled to look at the sun. Honestly the heat and humidity today warrants keeping them inside rather than the eclipse.
If used to take a brief snapshot cellphones should be ok. However, more prolonged exposure to the sun could damage some phones so it's best to make sure there's a filter on, especially if you're doing something like Facebook live.
So why's this happening? Usually once or twice a year the orbit of the moon around the Earth and the Earth around the Sun bring the moon and sun into alignment in front of the Earth. This results in a solar eclipse but the area of the globe experiencing the phenomena is relatively small and the duration brief (as opposed to a lunar eclipse which can be seen by half the world when it occurs and lasts for more than an hour). Being in the path of totality for a solar eclipse is like winning the lottery...it's pretty rare. However, this year the path of the total eclipse is bisecting the country from west to east, starting in Oregon and moving to South Carolina. That means almost everyone in the county will experience a partial eclipse, including our area.
Most of us will see about 90% of the sun obscured by the moon's shadow. This is known as the outer shadow, or penumbra. The inner, full shadow, is the umbra and that is where the "total" eclipse will be seen. Conditions in totality will be dramatic, with substantial darkening and the sight of the corona around the edge of the moon as it completely blocks the sun. In fact, so much of the sun is blocked out in those areas that they can view the sight with the naked eye safely for a couple of minutes. Our area is not quite in totality so the sun's rays, even 90% obscured, can still result in eye damage.
The show will begin after Noon eastern time when Oregon starts to experience the effects of the eclipse. Maximum eclipse effects will be witnessed there around 1:15 pm our time...so that would be a good time to check out our livestream on our website to see what is going on there. It's also around that time that we'll start to see the shadow on the sun...and over the next hour and 15 minutes the sun will be increasingly blocked out. Our area will experience the maximum effect around 2:35 pm...with Charleston, Hurricane and Huntington seeing 90% obscuration. Southern WV and Kentucky will be closed to 93-94% while our northern Viewing area will be in the upper 80% zone.
It won't get pitch dark...more like sunrise/sunset...but temperatures will likely cool around 5 degrees between 2 to 3 pm (which is good since we'll be around 90 at that time). A breeze may kick up too. I think most of us will have good viewing conditions but it should be pointed out that a few more clouds and perhaps some isolated showers may be witnessed in SE Ohio and northern WV up near Route 50.
By 4 pm the sky will have returned to normal as the sun and moon move apart. Should you not get a chance to view today's eclipse take heart...there's another total eclipse that will cross the western Ohio Valley in April of 2024!