Weather permitting, most of the U.S. will be treated to a partial solar eclipse on Thursday, October 23, 2014.
Although the partial eclipse may not be a spectacular as a total eclipse, watchers in the mid and southeastern portion of North America will be treated to a rare sunset eclipse, which could prove to be even more stunning.
The eclipse will begin at 3:38 p.m. Eastern time Thursday afternoon, with the time of maximum eclipse at 5:45 – just before the sun sets. It will end at 7:52 p.m.
Because of the late afternoon hour the eclipse will not be visible to the extreme northeast U.S. and the eastern portion of Canada, but sky watchers in all other areas of North America should be able to see at least some of the solar event. The most coverage of the sun will be in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, with the continental U.S. seeing between 12 percent in Florida to more than 50 percent coverage in the north and northwestern portions of the country.
This Space.com sky map shows the areas and time for the best views.
NASA says that the eclipse should be especially beautiful in the eastern U.S. because the moon and sun line up at the end of the day, transforming the normal sunset into something “weird and wonderful.”
However, according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak, sky watchers in the Central Time zone will have the best view of the eclipse because it will be in its maximum phase at right at sunset.
“They will see a fiery crescent sinking below the horizon, dimmed to human visibility by low-hanging clouds and mist,” he said.
In the Central time zone, the eclipse begins just after 4:30 p.m.
The NASA website also offers a tip for viewing the eclipse in an unusual way.
“During the eclipse, don’t forget to look at the ground. Beneath a leafy tree, you might be surprised to find hundreds of crescent-shaped sunbeams dappling the grass. Overlapping leaves create a myriad of natural little pinhole cameras, each one casting an image of the crescent-sun onto the ground beneath the canopy. When the eclipsed sun approaches the horizon, look for the same images cast on walls or fences behind the trees.”
Another trick that children might enjoy is to criss-cross your fingers waffle-style and allow the sun to shine through the holes between your fingers so you can cast crescent suns on near-by surfaces.
Will you be watching Thursday’s eclipse?
[Image via The Westside Story]