First Coast Connect: Jacksonville Preps For ‘Great American Solar Eclipse’

Aug 16, 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse will move across the country on Aug. 21
Credit Rocky Raybell / Flickr

A celestial event that astronomy fans have been anticipating for years, Monday’s solar eclipse will block out the sun in a path that crosses the nation from Oregon to South Carolina.

While the First Coast isn’t in the path of total darkness,  it should still be something to experience, experts say.

Appearing Wednesday on First Coast Connect, Jacksonville University associate professor of physics Brian Lane said more than 90 percent of the sun will be blocked by the moon’s shadow in Jacksonville.

“The eclipse comes from the moon coming between the earth and the sun, so depending on where you are on the Earth, you see it at a different angle. You are seeing a different amount (of sunlight) covered up,”  he said.

Lane describes the effect the moon creates as a “crescent sun,” much like a crescent moon but much more dangerous to look at directly.  

It’s very important not to look at the eclipse with the naked eye, said Director of the Gulani Vision Institute, Dr. Arun Gulani.

“The external damage from the sunlight to our eyes is very well known. The most common condition is cataracts,” he said. “But the damage from an eclipse is from the ray of light because you are not protecting them. That can cause photochemical and then photothermal damage to the retina.”

To view the eclipse safely, consider using special government-certified solar eclipse glasses or a telescope using a mylar filter. Another way is looking indirectly using a pinhole camera. Viewers can also get a picture of what the sun is doing by using their hands and standing with their back to the sun. In addition, NASA will be running a live stream from several locations across the eclipse’s path.   

Eclipse glasses are becoming hard to find around Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Public Library has only enough glasses left for the events it’s holding. Some stores like Lowe’s have been selling them, but it’s advised to call ahead to check on availability.

Attorney John Phillips posted on his Facebook page you can get two pairs of solar eclipse glasses plus two koozies and two pins with a $44 donation to The American Cancer Society. He is participating in the Real Men Wear Pink campaign to fight breast cancer.  

The eclipse begins in Jacksonville 1:16 p.m. Monday. It will peak at 90 percent coverage at 2:47 p.m. and end at 4:11 p.m. Even if skies are cloudy, it will get noticeably darker as the eclipse reaches its peak.

Viewing parties are planned at several locations including the University of North Florida and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at kmeerschaert@wjct.org, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax.