When the Sun is covered up by the Moon across a narrow path from the Pacific to the Atlantic seaboards, Monday, August 21st, there will be several interesting phenomena to observe.

When the Sun is covered up by the Moon across a narrow path from the Pacific to the Atlantic seaboards, Monday, August 21st, there will be several interesting phenomena to observe.

The action is not only the eclipse itself.

It is hard to imagine if you have never experienced a total solar eclipse, to see the brightness of day become like deep twilight for a brief time, with the brighter stars and planets appearing in the daytime sky.

Although it may be hard to pull your eyes away from the ink black disc of the Moon surrounded by the glowing solar corona, you may want to take a few second to see the bright planet Venus 34 degrees to the right. To measure this, your clenched fist held at arm’s length against the sky spans about 10 degrees; therefore, Venus will be seen about three and a half “fists” over.

You should be able to see Venus with unaided eyes as long as 10 minutes before and after the total eclipse.

Jupiter is farther, to the left, by 51 degrees. Jupiter is not quite as bright as Venus.
Only eight degrees to the west (right) of the Sun will be the Red Planet, Mars. It may be hard to glimpse Mars without binoculars.

Special Safety Note: During the total phase of the eclipse, it is perfectly safe to look straight at the eclipse and use binoculars, but it is CRUCIAL that you do not do so at any time before or after the TOTAL phase. The Sun is much too brilliant and would damage your eyes. There are safe solar filters, including special “solar eyeglasses” (but don’t try ordinary sunglasses) as well as safe, indirect means to see a projected image of the partially eclipse Sun.

The brightest star we can see at night, Sirius, will be visible low in the southwest during the total eclipse.
The bright star Regulus, which shines in the constellation Leo the Lion and is easily seen on winter and spring evenings, will be very close to the Sun, only 1.2 degrees to the upper left. Binoculars will likely be needed.

The total solar eclipse will only last about two minutes or a little more, depending on where you are. During totality, look for the fine, twisted streamers of the solar atmosphere, known as the corona. At the very edge of the Moon, you may see orange prominence appearing like fire erupting from the Sun.
In the seconds that it takes for the Moon to fully cover the solar face, and for a few seconds at the very end of totality, “Baily’s Beads” appear, which are small remnants of direct Sun glowing between the mountains of the Moon on the very edge of the lunar face.

When only one bead is left, an amazing “diamond ring” effect is briefly visible.
Just before and immediately after a total eclipse, a very odd phenomena occurs- ON THE GROUND. Called “Shadow Bands,” These are elusive, thin wavy lines of alternating light and ark, seen racing  parallel to each other. They are best observed on a plain colored surface.

Thought to be of atmospheric origin, they seem to be related to the same conditions that make stars seem to twinkle. Scientists are still investigating.

Watch as the temperature drops. Without the direct rays of the Sun, the air temperature may drop by 10 degrees. During the mid-day darkness, streetlights come on and roosters may be heard.

It’s an amazing time. Many will be fussing to snap a photograph, but whatever you do, don’t let anything distract you from just taking in the total solar eclipse with your very eyes. It is over before you know it!
Meanwhile, Last Quarter Moon is on August 14.

Keep Looking Up!

Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column. If you see the eclipse, please send him a report!