Something exciting will be happening in our skies on Monday, August 21 - the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States since 1979! Although Central Florida is not in the line of totality, nearly 90 percent of the sun’s surface will be obscured by the moon for Seminole County observers of The Great American Eclipse of 2017.
Derek Demeter, Director of the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College, answered our questions about this fantastic solar event and how and where you can view it best.
1. What is an eclipse and how often do they occur?
A solar eclipse is when the position of the moon and sun are the same in the sky and the moon blocks the light from the sun causing a shadow on the earth's surface. Eclipses occur quite often, every 18 months or so, but the last time a eclipse like this was seen in the United States was over 99 years ago!
2. What is unique or different about this eclipse and when it will take place?
For those lucky to be in the path of the shadow, we will see the entire disk of the sun be covered by the moon resulting in a total solar eclipse. It will start mid-morning for those on the west coast and into the afternoon for those on the east coast. The eclipse date is Monday, August 21st.
3. Where in the U.S. will the eclipse be most visible?
The eclipse will be seen to some degree throughout the entire United States, but the states that will get to see the total solar eclipse are (from west to east): Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina.
4. Can/Where can people in Central Florida view the eclipse?
We will be getting about 85% of the sun eclipsed here in Florida, but if you want to see the total solar eclipse, the best place to go within a 10-hour drive or less is western North Carolina, north Georgia, and most of South Carolina.
5. What are some tips for the best eclipse viewing?
Never ever look at the sun without using eye protection like eclipse glasses or a solar filter. Grab a lawn chair and sit back, relax, and watch the sun slowly disappear while wearing your special eclipse viewing glasses or solar filter. If you don't have those, you can make a pinhole viewer. There are multiple sites online with directions for how to make one.
6. Is the planetarium doing anything special to highlight or celebrate the eclipse?
The planetarium will be hosting two events, one will be in eastern Oregon for totality and the other will be held on the Sanford/Lake Mary campus. We will be handing out eclipse glasses for everyone who comes out and it is totally free! See details below or on our eclipse webpage for more information.
WHAT: #SolarEclipse2017 Observing Event
WHERE: Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College Sanford/Lake Mary Campus - 100 Weldon Boulevard, Sanford, FL 32773. Front sidewalks of the Automotive Technology building
WHEN: Monday, August 21, 2017, noon to 4:30 p.m.
Parking: Due to the large number of expected visitors on campus, arrival is recommended via Lake Mary Boulevard.
WHY: For those who are not able to travel to areas of the country where the total eclipse is visible, this event will be the best chance to safely view the partial eclipse in all of Central Florida.
COST: FREE and open to the public, FREE ample, easily accessible parking, FREE custom solar eclipse viewing glasses while supplies last
Visuals / Interviews:Planetarium staff and volunteers from the Central Florida Astronomical Society, the Seminole State College STEM Club, and many others will have properly-filtered telescopes and binoculars set up for safely viewing the eclipse. There will also be several short presentations during the event for those interested in learning more about the eclipse itself and the science behind it.
Onsite Viewing Tips: While the eclipse itself is the "star" of the show, the surface of the sun will also exhibit incredible detail through the telescopes. Planetarium telescopes and binoculars utilize two different filters to view the eclipse. Learn more on our website here.
FUN FACTS / BY THE NUMBERS:
2:51 p.m.: Time of maximum eclipse from Seminole State College
86: Percent of sun's surface obscured
15: Number of telescopes and solar binoculars for viewing during the event.
38: Years since a total solar eclipse was visible in the contiguous United States.
175: Number of minutes of the partial eclipse visible from Central Florida.
5,000: Anticipated attendance at the Eclipse 2017 Observing Event
For more information on the Emil Buehler Planetarium visit www.seminolestate.edu/planet. Like them on Facebook, and/or follow on Twitter and Instagram @seminoleplanet using #CFLEclipse and #SolarEclipse2017.
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