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Nat Geo explains the science behind solar eclipses, why you should care

19 August 2017

Solar eclipses are pretty neat, but the truth is, I was right to be a little frightened of one when I was a child.

With an historic solar eclipse quickly approaching, many are scrambling to make plans on where to watch it.

That means viewing the almost two-hour long partial eclipse without solar glasses or some other implement is unsafe and can result in severe eye damage. Even with one-day shipping, orders aren't expected to arrive until Monday. Associate Dean for Natural Sciences at UNC Dr. Chris Clemens, you will still witness a sizable portion of the Sun covered by the moon. Be sure to take it in because something like this won't happen for several decades over our tri-state area! This means that the visible side of the moon is darkened, because the moon is closer to the sun. Instead, you can use a method called pinhole projection: by letting sunlight shine through an opening, such as a hole in a sheet of paper, and onto another surface, you can see a projection of the crescent sun. Hold your fingers in a waffle pattern, with the shadow projected on a hard surface such as a sidewalk or deck. The glasses feature a special filter that blocks out all UV light and most visible light too.

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In the path of totality, the sky will darken drastically. There will be a discussion about the different types of solar eclipses and how they happen. NASA recommends eclipse watchers refer to the American Astronomical Society website for a list of reputable vendors selling solar glasses and viewers.

The moon's shadow will pass through 14 states during the August 21 eclipse: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and the southwestern borders of Montana and Iowa.

With only two days to go, NASA-approved solar eclipse glasses are almost impossible to find. The peak eclipse will occur around 2:40 p.m.

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Will weather be an issue during the eclipse?

The eclipse will reach its maximum in the USVI when about 90 percent of the Sun will be blocked out at 3:36 p.m., and from that point, the Sun will become less and less obscured until the Moon completely unblocks the Sun, at 4:47 p.m.

"It's really like a once in a lifetime thing to see the actual total eclipse", explains Matt Bigler, an eclipse fanatic.

NASA notes that glasses must comply with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard if you plan on staring directly at the eclipse.

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Nat Geo explains the science behind solar eclipses, why you should care