TC Physics Professor Offers Tips for Safely Viewing the Upcoming Solar Eclipse
August 18, 2017, Texarkana, TX- Anticipation of a solar eclipse on Monday gives area residents a reason to gaze into the sky—but if you’re planning to watch the eclipse, you’ll need to take some key precautions to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
“There are only a few safe ways to view the sun directly during an eclipse,” said Delbert Dowdy, Texarkana College physics professor. “The three ways are to use special glasses made for solar eclipses, sun filters made for the fronts of telescopes, and number 14 welding glasses. It is especially dangerous to use sunglasses, cameras, phones, or any kind of smoky glass to look at the sun during an eclipse.”
He said looking at the sun, even though it is not as bright during an eclipse, can cause solar retinopathy, or permanent damage to the retina of the eye. Although total blindness is rare, damage can take many forms such as dark spots in your vision that never go away.
“On Monday, the sun’s surface will not be completely covered in Texarkana, and the ultraviolet rays from its surface will still be hitting the earth,” Dowdy said. “These rays are extremely dangerous and can cause permanent damage.”
Dowdy said that anyone wanting to witness the solar eclipse first-hand can prepare by making a pinhole viewer from household supplies.
“Take two white paper plates and use a tack or a small nail to make a hole in the center of one plate,” Dowdy said. “Hold the plate with the hole closer to the sun and project an image on the second plate. Then, find a tree, other than pine, where the light is coming through the leaves and look at the ground—not up at the sun. You should see many images of the eclipse.”
Solar eclipses occur when the moon gets between the sun and Earth and creates a moon-shaped shadow on the Earth. For people in a 70-mile swathe of Earth that includes slivers of 11 U.S. states, the sun will appear to be completely hidden by the moon—or a total eclipse. People outside of that 70-mile area, including the Ark-La-Tex, will see a partial eclipse, where the sun will appear to be partially concealed by the moon. The further you are from the 70-mile total eclipse area, the less the sun will appear to be covered during the eclipse.
Dowdy said people in the Texarkana area can expect to see up to 81.5% of the sun hidden.
“The moon will begin to move across the sun in Texarkana at 11:45 a.m. on Monday, August 21,” Dowdy said. “The covering of the sun will increase until the maximum coverage will occur at 1:15 p.m. After that, the coverage will decrease and end at 2:44 p.m. You should experience a cooling during the eclipse, and it will be darker. Also, animals may exhibit strange behavior during the eclipse.”
Projection of the next occurrence of a partial eclipse in Texarkana is projected to occur in 2023, and a total eclipse is expected in April 2024.