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Valley is good place to watch solar eclipse today

June 10, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

This evening don't be surprised if the skies over the Imperial Valley darken a shade prior to sunset, as a partial solar eclipse is expected to start about 5 p.m.

The eclipse is known as an annular or ring-shaped eclipse, according to John Mosley, an astronomer with the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles.

In a recorded message, Mosley states the eclipse will start shortly after 5 p.m. and it will take about an hour for the moon to cover about three quarters of the sun. It will take another hour for the moon to move out of the sun's path.


While there may be a temptation, particularly for children, to look toward the sun as the eclipse occurs, avoid doing so.

It can be dangerous to look toward a partial eclipse, just as it can when looking directly at the sun on any day. There are unseen ultraviolet rays that can permanently damage the eyes.

Still, there are safe ways to view the eclipse and it might be worth doing because it will be the last solar eclipse visible for three years.

Southern California is a prime location for the eclipse since the moon's coverage of the sun will appear to be about 80 percent from this region. Other areas of the nation will see less of an eclipse or no eclipse at all.

Escondido resident Bob Nanz, a member of the San Diego Astronomy Association — an amateur astronomy club — said there are safe ways to view a partial eclipse.

Nanz recommends only looking directly at the eclipse if you have specially made solar lenses. He said sunglasses will not protect your eyes from the damaging rays.

Some astronomy Web sites suggest it is safe to look directly at the sun if you have No. 14 level welder's glasses. However, Nanz said he would not recommend looking at the sun even with the welder's glasses, adding he is unsure if welder's glasses will block all harmful rays.

The safest methods project the image of the sun and the partial eclipse.

Nanz said the simplest method is to create a circle with your thumb and index finger to form a shadow on the ground or on a piece of paper.

It should be possible to project an image of the eclipse through the circle onto the ground or paper.

He also suggested making a pinhole in an index card using a pencil tip or pen and aiming it toward the sun. The pinhole should project an image of the eclipse onto another index card or piece of paper a person would hold a foot below the pinhole.

A more technical form of the projection idea is to use binoculars.

Aim the binoculars toward the sun and then hold a piece of paper about a foot below the eyepiece. An image of the sun should appear on the paper. You can adjust the binoculars to make the image clearer. However, do not look at the sun through the binoculars.

Mosley states in his recording it is possible to cast an image of the sun using a telescope in much the same way as the binocular method — by aiming the telescope toward the sun and placing a piece of paper underneath the eye piece.

Mosley recommends covering all but a small portion of the telescope lens, adding the sun can heat and damage the lens.

Still, he states the partial eclipse should be an easy event to view safely.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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