It seems like there have been more reasons to keep your eyes on the sky this year. There have been numerous solar flares causing what seems like higher than normal northern light activity and we had the lunar eclipse a couple of weeks ago. This week there will be a partial solar eclipse and tonight is the peak of the Orionid meteor showers. It’s a great week to visit somewhere like the Gunflint Trail where the skies are dark from the absence of light pollution providing a great place to keep your eyes on the sky.
This week: solar eclipse and Orionid meteor shower
This year has been a good year for eclipses. In April and again this month, we witnessed a total lunar eclipse. And this week, we’ll see a partial solar eclipse
Lunar eclipses are a lot more common than solar eclipses. Next year, we’ll have two more total lunar eclipses. The next solar eclipse visible from the continental United States will occur on Aug. 21, 2017.
Thursday’s solar eclipse will begin around 4:23 p.m. and peak at 5:35 p.m., when slightly more than half of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon. We won’t see much of the eclipse after that because the partially eclipsed sun will set at 6:15 p.m.
It’s going to look weird. There will be a definite reduction in daylight in the late afternoon, kind of like twilight occuring before the sun has set.
Plan to watch the solar eclipse the right way. Staring at the sun is never a good idea; doing so can permanently damage your eyes. Never, never look at the sun with a pair of binoculars or a telescope.
In the past several columns, I’ve written about special safety glasses you can buy to view a solar eclipse. I hope you got a pair.
If not, use the projection method to safely watch the moon march across the sun. Make a pinhole in a piece of white cardboard. Find another piece of stiff white cardboard or fiberboard. Stand with you back to the sun and hold the pinhole piece toward the sun. Aim the shadow of that cardboard over the blank cardboard, and watch the eclipse.
Autumn is known for meteor showers.
Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio and is author of the book, “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations” published by Adventure Publications (adventurepublications.net). Check out his website at lynchandthestars.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.