In last month’s installment the Western part of the country was favored with a total lunar eclipse. This month the Northeast gets its turn—this time for a solar eclipse. As was the case in May, this will also largely be a “horizon-hugging” event requiring an unobstructed one to be seen to advantage. Despite the challenge, this will be well worth making the effort to observe.
Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. In the case of an annular eclipse, our satellite is not quite close enough to us to completely block out the Sun—as happens in a total solar eclipse—leaving a brilliant ring of light around its edge. This event occurs on Thursday morning, June 10th. The complete annular phase won’t be visible from the U.S. but instead only a partial view of the eclipsed Sun. And the trick is catching it just after the Sun rises over the northeastern horizon.
The best views will be from Augusta and Portland, Maine, where the Sun will rise at 4:55 a.m. EDT and 4:59, respectively with the eclipse well underway. Maximum eclipse will occur at 5:35 with our Daytime Star partially covered and standing just 6 and 5 degrees above the horizon. The eclipse ends about 6:35 with the Sun 15 degrees above the horizon for both places.. Sunrise in Boston will be at 5:07 and maximum eclipse at 5:33 with the Sun just 4 degrees high. The eclipse ends at 6:33 and the Sun 13 degrees above the horizon there. In Philadelphia it will rise at 5:37 already at maximum eclipse and the event ends at 6:30 with the Sun 9 degrees high.
Viewing precautions: Even though the Sun will be partially covered by the Moon and near the horizon with its glare somewhat muted by the atmosphere, you must exercise care in watching it. Looking at the Sun through even the darkest pair of sunglasses will not protect you. They may filter its visible light, but harmful ultraviolet and infrared rays will still get through. One traditional recommendation is using a #14 welder’s filter. Better is an inexpensive and safe pair of “Sun Shades” similar in construction (only!) to the 3-D glasses being used in theaters, available from www.scientificsonline.com. These are ideal for looking at the Sun anytime to check its surface for any occasional large sunspots. However, in the case of binoculars and telescopes, proper solar filters are an absolute “must” to avoid serious eye damage or even blindness! And the filters must be of the type that fit over the front of a telescope or both binocular lenses and NOT over their eyepieces. One extensive source for optical solar filters is Thousand Oaks Optical at: http://thousandoaksoptical.com/ (click on the “solar filters” icon).
— James Mullaney
Former assistant editor at Sky & Telescope magazine & author of nine books on stargazing. His latest, Celebrating the Universe!, is available from HayHouse.com.