Experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse by dfhercbml


									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

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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