Experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse What You Can See Unless a solar eclipse is greater than 70%, you will most likely not notice any significant drop in brightness and temperature. But as the partial eclipse reaches this point en route to a total or annular solar eclipse you should start to notice some changes in the environment around you. Shadow of the Moon Approaching During a total solar eclipse the shadow of the moon can be seen to the west approaching at supersonic speed (2100 miles per hour). It will appear as a storm forming in the west as the sky darkens. The shadow The Diamond Ring, 1991. will sweep overhead and only then Bill Kramer you can safely look directly at the sun since the moon will shield the sun's bright surface. If you are obsessed with a camera and a telescope as I have been for most of my eclipse experiences, you may miss seeing the shadow. I didn't see the shadow until my sixth solar eclipse. For first timers, plan to view the eclipse and then trade people pictures for eclipse pictures with your fellow eclipse chasers. Visible Planets As the total eclipse approaches, there are many things to observe. The planets near the Sun will become visible. Venus and Mercury can normally be seen during totality with Venus clearly visible some time before totality actually starts. An experienced astronomer once remarked with loud glee “I see Mercury!” during an eclipse and later confessed that it was indeed the first time he had ever seen the planet Mercury in the sky. Normally Mercury is very low on the horizon during sunset or sunrise and not clearly visible through trees, buildings, or thicker atmosphere. During the time just before totality the sky will be darkening quickly, and the temperature will drop as the heat from the Sun is cut off. You will feel a chill in the air. Shadow Bands An effect known as shadow bands may be visible just before and after the total portion of the eclipse. They will appear as overlapping crescents racing across lightly coloured surfaces. At first it may appear as if the light is playing tricks with your eyes and you may dismiss them, but that is exactly what you are seeing! Light is playing tricks with your eyes as the crescent shaped sun is refracted by turbulent atmosphere. Again, this is something you can miss easily if you are paying attention to a camera more than the event. I didn't clearly see shadow bands until my eighth total solar eclipse.
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