With eyes to the sky, Southern New Englanders witness solar eclipse

US & World

(WPRI/AP) — People across America and right here in Southern New England were looking to the sky Monday for the total solar eclipse.

Locally, we only had a partial view of the rare celestial event but that didn’t stop people from gathering at viewing events to get a glimpse of history.

The Full Eclipse

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

It was the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling onto blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality — the line of deep shadow created when the sun is completely obscured except for the delicate ring of light known as the corona. Continue Reading »

The Local Scene

The eclipse started in Southern New England around 1:30 p.m. However, people already started to get into position earlier in the morning.

Crowds lined up at the Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown before 10 a.m.

Many public libraries also offered events and people gathered on the main green at Brown University.

The Science

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon appears to cover the disk of the sun.  The moon will pass between the sun and earth and will block all or part of the sun.

Here in Southern New England, the partial solar eclipse began around 1:30 p.m., with the maximum effects around 2:45 p.m. The event should be completed by 4 p.m.

Solar Eclipse FAQs

Here are some answers from the folks at NASA to some frequently asked questions.

Why can’t I look at the sun?

According to NASA, the sun’s surface is so bright that if you stare at any portion of it, no matter how small, it produces enough light to damage individual retinal cells.  It takes a few seconds for this to happen. The severity of damage can depend on how long you stare at the sun and on the individual.

What can happen if I look at the sun during an eclipse?

In extreme cases, NASA said this can cause blindness, but is so painful that it is rare for someone to be able to stare at the sun for that long. Typically, eye damage from staring at the sun results in blurred vision, dark or yellow spots, pain in bright light or loss of vision in the center of the eye (the fovea). Permanent damage to the retina has been shown to occur in about 100 seconds, but the exact time varies. Note, there are no pain receptors in the retina so your retina can be damaged even before you realize it, and by then it is too late to save your vision!

Is it only the bright light that’s harmful when viewing the sun?

NASA said the heat from the sun can also make viewing uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Even if you have solar eclipse glasses, NASA suggests frequently looking away to cool your eyes.

How can I safely view the eclipse?

Many people will obtain eclipse viewing glasses. According to NASA, three manufacturers to date have certified that their eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical.

If you are a photographer or amateur astronomer, you will want professional-grade solar filters to cover your binoculars, telescope or camera.

Can I use my smartphone to photograph the eclipse?

You can photograph the eclipse with your phone. However, you will need a solar filter that will reduce the brightness of the sun so that the light intensity does not destroy your camera.

Here are some tips from Apple on taking photos or video during the eclipse.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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