CRANFORD, NJ - On August 21, a solar eclipse is predicted to cross the country from Oregon to South Carolina, and be partly visible throughout the country. John Sichel, corresponding secretary of Amateur Astronomers Incorporated, shares how local residents can enjoy the action.
AAI is one of the largest astronomy clubs in the country and meets at the William Miller Sperry Observatory on the Cranford campus of Union County College every Friday evening.
“In New Jersey the eclipse will reach only about 77 percent of totality—so the sun will look like a crescent at the height of the event,” Sichel said. “Most of our members are traveling to points south and west to observe totality.”
According to eclipse2017.org, the eclipse is expected to begin at approximately 1:22 p.m. and end around 4 p.m.
“The Solar Eclipse is much shorter and visible over a tiny fraction of the earth than the Lunar Eclipse,” Sichel said. “For that reason Solar Eclipses seem much rarer than Lunar Eclipses—if you don’t have the budget to travel on a regular basis to exotic places you don’t get to see Solar Eclipses. We haven’t had one where totality was visible in any part of the US in over 20 years. The next one will be in 2024. And this eclipse is fairly unique in that it will only be visible in the United States.”
Sichel advises those interested to purchase special eclipse glasses that can be found at most museums and planetariums. The glasses cut out most of the sun’s light. Looking directly into the sun is highly dangerous and can severely damage your eyes in a short time period. Looking through a binocular or telescope is even worse, Sichel said.
“To project the eclipse, try putting a mirror in a regular business envelope with a small, ragged hole cut in it and use that to reflect the sun’s light onto a wall or board,” he said. “It is best to practice lining this up beforehand, because you don’t want the eclipse to be over while you are still fumbling to line it up.”
Although the observatory is not doing anything special, the Cranford Public Library will host a special eclipse viewing at Sherman Field, which Sichel plans to attend. Protective eyewear will be provided by the library. All children must be accompanied by a caretaker.
Prior to the solar eclipse viewing, there will be a science workshop at the library for children ages 7 and older at 11 a.m.
The AAI meets every Friday night at the Sperry Observatory and all are welcome to join.