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Ready for the Eclipse? How to View It Safely

There are safe ways, with a do-it-yourself, 'pinhole projector,' but don't risk serious damage to your eyes Sunday by looking directly at the sun, Foothill College's "Astro-Prof" advises. Or, go to one of the Bay Area's many viewing parties or events.

 

A partial solar eclipse is expected to darken the sun between 5:16 and 7:40 p.m. Sunday, but astronomers are advising you look ver-r-r-r-y carefully.

How carefully?

Start by turning your back to the sun. Really.

"It is very important that everyone tempted by the sight of 84 percent of the sun's area being covered by the Moon take heed of the warnings you will hear for much of the coming week," , and a frequent radio commentator on all things astronomical.

People can watch by making do-it-yourself pinhole projectors. They view the eclipse by turning their back to the sun and letting the sun shine through the pinhole onto a piece of paper. From there, the progression of the moon's path can be seen.

Viewing the sun without proper protection is dangerous and can cause serious eye damage. Fraknoi started on Monday by distributing a link for safe eclipse viewing through all his networks.

The experts are also using this as a teachable, festive moment. While it's not a total eclipse, Sunday's event is still pretty special. The last time an "annular eclipse" took place was 18 years ago.

Optimum viewing time is 6:33 p.m. 

Public Viewing of the Eclipse on May 20, 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area compiled by Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College & Astronomical Society of the Pacific). For eclipse information, see: http://www.astrosociety.org/2012eclipse 

Berkeley

The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley (1 Centennial Drive) will have several solar telescopes for viewing the eclipse safely on their main plaza. There will also be special programming inside the Hall’s Planetarium throughout the evening. The program goes from 5 to 8 pm.  See: http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/visit/events/partial_solar_eclipse

Clayton (Mt. Diablo)

The Mt. Diablo Astronomical Society will have safe solar telescopes available for viewing on Mt. Diablo (Park in the Lower Summit Parking Lot, Summit Rd, Clayton, CA 94517). Starting at 5 pm until 7:30 pm, they will be setting up at Juniper Campground parking area. Although there is no fee for this program, there is a $10 park entrance fee. Check their web site www.mdas.net and click on events. 

Half Moon Bay

Cameron’s Campground, Inn, and Restaurant (1410 Cabrillo Highway South Half Moon Bay, 1.3 miles South of Hwy. 92) is hosting an afternoon of astronomy viewing. Host is Steve White of Scope City, San Francisco, who will have a special telescope that can show solar flares and prominences. 

Los Altos 

Foothill College Observatory (12345 El Monte Rd.) will be open, with telescopes in and outside the dome, from 5:30 pm to about 7:30 pm.  Join the members of the Peninsula Astronomical Society for free eclipse observing and explanations. For a map and webcam, see: http://www.pastro.org/dnn/Observatory/FoothillObservatory.aspx

Mount Hamilton

Lick Observatory, 7281 Mount Hamilton Road, Mount Hamilton, CA 95140 (18 miles east of San Jose on State Route 130) will be providing access to a solar telescope (SolarMax II) for safe, up-close viewing, and the gift shop will also have eclipse viewing glasses available for purchase for a nominal charge.

Oakland

Chabot Space and Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd) will have an eclipse viewing party on the observatory deck.  Engage in hands-on solar projects, make a pin-hole camera, enjoy solar viewing, and converse with experienced astronomers. The Center will close at 5 pm, but there will be special extended hours on the observatory deck until 8pm! Buy tickets onlinehttp://www.chabotspace.org/triple-play.htm or call (510)336-7373. 

Pleasant Hill

Diablo Valley College Observatory (321 Golf Club Road) will have one or more telescopes available from about 5 pm until the Sun goes behind the trees. The best access is from Viking Drive with free parking in lots 4 and 4a. A campus map can be obtained at:http://www.dvc.edu/org/campuses/ The observatory is the circular building in the middle of Science Center. The planetarium will not be open. The observatory has a WHITE dome and can be accessed following the path on the west side of the Life Sciences Building and then the spiral path to the left. NO stairs are required, but it is a fairly steep climb on a paved path.

Sacramento

The Discovery Museum Science & Space Center (3615 Auburn Blvd, Sacramento 95821) will have an eclipse party, 5:30 - 7:30 pm.  The evening includes a program explaining eclipses and safe viewing techniques (each participant will receive a specialeclipse viewer).  During the actual eclipse, families are invited to enjoy their own picnic dinners in our nature area.  Then there will be a planetarium show featuring the planets and constellations visible as darkness falls. You may register at the Museum or over the phone by calling 916-808-3942.

San Carlos

San Carlos Library (610 Elm St.) will have a solar eclipse event from 4 - 7 pm. Indoor and outdoor activities, telescopes, eclipseand lunar-phase models. Call 650 591-0341. 

San Francisco

The California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (55 Music Concourse Dr.) will be setting up some telescopes and other viewing apparatus from 5 to 7:40 pm in front of the Academy on the Music Concourse side, where the angles should allow participants to see most if not all of the eclipse.

San Juan Batista

The Fremont Peak Observatory Association will conduct a special solar program from 5 pm to sunset at the observatory which is located in Fremont Peak State Park (6878 San Juan County Road, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045). You can obtain detailed directions to the Observatory from Google using this link: http://preview.tinyurl.com/7pov2fu Members of the public must be sure to pay the park entry fee before walking up to the observatory.  You’ll be able to view the eclipse through special solar telescopes. They will also be handing out a limited number of approved solar viewers for direct observation of the Sun.

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if you're unprepared, or like to leave things to chance Sunday afternoon, you can even look at the shadows cast by leaves on trees. If there are bug holes in the leaves, they pretty much do the same thing as a pinhole projector, writes Gary Baker in the newsletter of the Peninsula Astronomical Society newsletter.

And while you're under that tree, you might notice what a NASA Science's Science News article  says is special about an annular eclipse, described as having "a particular charm of its own." It renders sunbeams into "little rings of light," easily seen in the shadows of a leafy tree.

The NASA article on the partial eclipse quotes NASA's leading eclipse expert, Fred Espenak of the Goddard Space Flight Center, as saying he gives it a '9' on a scale of 1 to 10, In terms of visual spectacles.

For those wondering what places, besides Mt. Shasta, get "the full annular" the Mt. Diablo Astronomical Society posted a link from Bruce Kruse of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The interactive Google map, made by Xavier M. Jubier, is worth taking a look to see the path of the eclipse.

This is the first of a "triple-play," Chabot points out. After the annular eclipse on Sunday comes a partial lunar eclipse on June 4 between 2 and 4 a.m., followed by an even rarer once-every-120 years, "Transit of Venus," which is Venus traveling between us and the sun. And yes, your astronomer buddies will be out watching.

DIY: How Can One Watch the Eclipse Safely?
The following is from "Astro-Prof" Andrew Fraknoi: The best way to see the eclipse is to project an image of the sun (and not to look at the sun directly.) One easy way is to make a pinhole projector: Take two pieces of cardboard or thick paper. Put a pinhole in one (taking care to make a clean hole). Then stand with your back to the Sun, and let the Sun’s light fall through the hole and onto the other sheet. You’ll get a small but distinct image of the Sun. (A way to get a sharper pinhole is to cut a square out of the middle of one cardboard, tape a sheet of aluminum foil over the hole and put the pinhole in the foil instead of paper.)

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Erin Macias May 16, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Sun? What sun? haha! I remember making those pinhole projectors as a kid. Good fun for kids of all ages!

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