Education

RVCC Planetarium Is The Place to Be for Viewing the Solar Eclipse

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The "Diamond Ring Effect" of a total solar eclipse. Credits: Raritan Valley Community College
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Map of the projected path of the Aug. 24 solar eclipse. Credits: Raritan Valley Community College
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BRANCHBURG NJ - The Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium staff is busy preparing for a total Solar Eclipse on Aug.21, the first time in 99 years that the U.S. will experience a coast-to-coast total Solar Eclipse.

While the “Path of Totality” for complete viewing of the Solar Eclipse will run diagonally across the country from Oregon to South Carolina, New Jersey residents will see approximately 75 percent of the Sun covered by the Moon.

The public is invited to attend a free, safe viewing of the Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21, from 1-4 p.m., at the RVCC Planetarium. Those attending will participate in the viewing outside the 3M Observatory, which is located next to the Planetarium.

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The following safety information is provided by the National Space & Aeronautics Administration:

Looking directly at the Sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (totality), when the Moon entirely blocks the Sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers.

Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun. To date four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.

Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.

  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright Sun. After glancing at the Sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the Sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the Sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the Moon completely covers the Sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright Sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.

An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed Sun is pinhole projection. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. With your back to the Sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the Sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse.

A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime.

In addition, many of the Planetarium’s shows throughout this week will include a five-minute “Countdown to the Eclipse” segment focusing on the Solar Eclipse:

The Problem with Pluto, Thursday, Aug.17, at 2:30 p.m.

Follow Lucy on her trip through the solar system as she gathers data on Pluto’s status as a planet. Discover current information about the planets and investigate where Pluto belongs in the overall structure of our solar system. The show includes the “Countdown to the Eclipse” segment. (Recommended for ages 6-12)

Laser Light Waves, Thursday, Aug. 17, at 3:30 p.m.

Enjoy a laser concert featuring such songs as “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr, and “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga. (Recommended for ages 6-12)

Sunstruck, Friday, Aug. 18, at 8 p.m.

Discover the wonders of the Sun, which radiates energy in all wavelengths. How does it produce energy? What are its different layers? The Sun’s incredible energy has supported life on Earth for millennia, but it is now threatening our technology and way of life. Travel to the distant future to discover our Sun's connection to the Universe's cosmic cycle of life and death.  The show includes the “Countdown to the Eclipse” segment. (Recommended for ages 10-adult).

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon laser concert, Friday, Aug. 18, at 9 p.m.

Experience stellar sights and sounds while listening to Pink Floyd’s iconic album. Songs include “Speak to Me/Breathe,” “Time,” and “Money.”

Laser Pop Rock, Friday Aug. 18, at 6 p.m.

Lasers “dance” across the Planetarium dome while music is played. Songs include "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens, "Campfire Song Song" by Spongebob Squarepants, and "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift. (Recommended for ages 6-12)

The Problem with Pluto, Thursday, August 17, at 2:30 p.m.

Follow Lucy on her trip through the solar system as she gathers data on Pluto’s status as a planet. Discover current information about the planets and investigate where Pluto belongs in the overall structure of our solar system. The show includes the “Countdown to the Eclipse” segment. (Recommended for ages 6-12)

Laser Light Waves, Thursday, August 17, at 3:30 p.m.

Enjoy a laser concert featuring such songs as “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr, and “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga. (Recommended for ages 6-12)

The August 21 Solar Eclipse viewing at the Planetarium is free of charge.

Regular Planetarium show tickets cost $8 for one show or $14 for two shows on the same day. Reservations are strongly suggested for all Planetarium shows. For additional information or to make reservations, call 908-231-8805 or visit www.raritanval.edu/planetarium.

Raritan Valley Community College’s main campus is located at 118 Lamington Road. For further information, visit www.raritanval.edu.

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