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Eclipse Download 21-12: How to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse Safely and Why It Matters
A total solar eclipse is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena that can be witnessed by humans. It occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, completely blocking the sun's light and casting a shadow on a part of the earth. In this article, we will explain what a total solar eclipse is, when and where it will happen next, how to watch it safely, and why it is important for science and society.
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What is a total solar eclipse and when will it happen?
The definition and mechanism of a total solar eclipse
A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, obscuring the sun's image for a viewer on earth. There are different types of solar eclipses, depending on how much of the sun's disk is covered by the moon. A partial solar eclipse occurs when only a part of the sun is blocked by the moon. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon is too far from the earth to cover the entire sun, leaving a ring of light around the moon. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is close enough to the earth to cover the whole sun, leaving only a faint glow around the moon's edge. This is called the corona, which is the sun's outer atmosphere.
A total solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon phase, when the moon is aligned with the sun and the earth. However, not every new moon produces a total solar eclipse, because the moon's orbit around the earth is tilted by about 5 degrees from the earth's orbit around the sun. This means that most of the time, the moon's shadow misses the earth or only grazes it. A total solar eclipse can only occur when the moon's shadow falls on a narrow path on the earth's surface, called the path of totality.
The date and time of the upcoming total solar eclipse on December 4, 2021
The next total solar eclipse will occur on December 4, 2021. It will be visible from parts of Antarctica, South Africa, Namibia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and some islands in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The path of totality will start in Antarctica at 07:00 UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) and end in Namibia at 08:06 UTC. The maximum duration of totality will be about 1 minute and 54 seconds at a point near Antarctica at 07:33 UTC.
To find out if you will be able to see the total solar eclipse from your location, you can use an interactive map like this one for more details about the times and locations of the eclipse.
How to watch the total solar eclipse safely and where to see it?
The dangers of looking at the sun directly without proper eye protection
Watching a total solar eclipse can be an amazing experience, but it can also be very dangerous if you are not careful. Looking at the sun directly without proper eye protection can cause permanent damage to your eyesight, even blindness. This is because the sun emits intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can burn your retina, which is the light-sensitive layer at the back of your eye. The retina has no pain receptors, so you won't feel any pain while your eyes are being damaged. The damage can be irreversible and may not be noticeable until hours or days later.
Therefore, you should never look at the sun directly with your naked eyes, or with any ordinary sunglasses, binoculars, telescopes, cameras, or other optical devices. These devices can magnify the sun's rays and make the damage worse. You should also avoid looking at the sun through clouds, fog, haze, or smoke, as these can filter out some of the visible light but not the UV radiation.
The safe methods and devices for viewing the total solar eclipse
The only safe way to look at the sun during a total solar eclipse is to use a special filter that blocks out most of the sun's light and UV radiation. These filters are usually made of a thin layer of metal or plastic coated with a dark material that reduces the light transmission to less than 0.003%. You can find these filters in the form of eclipse glasses, handheld viewers, or attachments for binoculars, telescopes, or cameras. Make sure that the filters are certified by a reputable organization, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and that they are not damaged, scratched, or expired.
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Another safe method to watch the total solar eclipse is to use a pinhole projector. This is a simple device that you can make with a cardboard box, a sheet of paper, and a small hole. The hole acts as a lens that projects an image of the sun onto the paper inside the box. You can then look at the paper to see the eclipse without looking at the sun directly. You can also use other objects with small holes, such as a colander, a straw hat, or your fingers, to create multiple images of the eclipse on the ground or on a wall.
The geographic regions and locations of eclipse visibility
As mentioned earlier, the total solar eclipse on December 4, 2021 will be visible from parts of Antarctica, South Africa, Namibia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and some islands in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, not all of these places will see the same duration and magnitude of totality. The duration of totality is how long the sun is completely covered by the moon. The magnitude of totality is how much of the sun's diameter is covered by the moon.
The longest duration of totality will be about 1 minute and 54 seconds at a point near Antarctica at 07:33 UTC. The highest magnitude of totality will be about 1.037 at a point near South Africa at 07:03 UTC. The following table shows some of the major cities and locations where the total solar eclipse will be visible and their corresponding times and magnitudes of totality.
Time of Totality (UTC)
Duration of Totality (seconds)
Magnitude of Totality
Cape Town, South Africa
Grahamstown, South Africa
Dunedin, New Zealand
Invercargill, New Zealand
Puerto Montt, Chile
Stanley, Falkland Islands
Why is the total solar eclipse important for science and society?
The benefits of studying the sun's corona and solar weather phenomena
A total solar eclipse is a rare opportunity for scientists to study the sun's corona, which is normally hidden by the sun's brightness. The corona is the outermost layer of the sun's atmosphere, where the temperature reaches millions of degrees and where powerful magnetic fields and plasma jets are generated. The corona is also the source of the solar wind, which is a stream of charged particles that affects the earth's magnetic field and climate. By observing the corona during a total solar eclipse, scientists can learn more about the structure, dynamics, and evolution of the sun and its impact on the earth and other planets.
Some of the scientific instruments and experiments that will be used to study the corona during the total solar eclipse on December 4, 2021 include: - The Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) investigation, which is part of NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission. The SWEAP will measure the properties of the solar wind near the sun's surface and compare them with the observations from the earth. - The Citizen CATE Experiment, which is a project led by the National Solar Observatory and involving amateur astronomers from different countries. The Citizen CATE will use a network of telescopes along the path of totality to capture high-resolution images of the corona and create a continuous movie of its changes. - The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA), which is a balloon-borne radio telescop