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Street Level

Cleveland goes dark for Monday's solar eclipse


On Monday afternoon, a total solar eclipse will bisect the United States from coast-to-coast for the first time in a century. While Cleveland isn't getting the full brunt of this astronomical experience, an 80 percent eclipse will be viewable—weather permitting—beginning at 1:06 p.m., maximizing at 2:31 p.m. and ending at 3:51 p.m. 
 
NASA’s Glenn Research Center is hosting live video streams of the eclipse starting at noon via NASA aircraft, 50 high-altitude balloons and the good people aboard the International Space Station. Glenn director Janet Kavandi will be reporting live on NASA TV from Jefferson City, Missouri, expected to be one of the nation's best eclipse viewing spots, as complete darkness shrouds the city for two minutes and 29 seconds.
 
Glenn is also supporting a trio of eclipse-themed events around Cleveland. The organization is providing a solar telescope to visitors of the Great Lakes Science Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Glenn staff will also be dishing out eclipse knowledge at Edgewater Park from 1 to 4 p.m. Geauga County Park District’s Observatory Park will host a Glenn-sponsored watch event, complete with telescope and a lunar robotics demonstration.

The only way to look directly at the partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers, so be sure to take the proper precautions. But before you grab your gear for one of nature's most awe-inspiring sights, read up on some funky phenomena that occurs during a total solar eclipse:
 
**Long before totality (the phase when the moon is completely covering the sun's face), tree shadows will reveal hundreds of tiny crescent images of the partially covered sun across the ground. This happens due to gaps between leaves acting like a pinhole camera and projecting the sun's image, resulting in a fascinating and safe way to view the eclipse phase-by-phase.
 
**During totality, viewers on flat land or a mountaintop will see the darkest part of the moon's shadow (or the "umbra") race across the ground toward them. Eat your heart out, Cat Stevens!
 
**A total eclipse is the only time it's safe to look directly at the sun without eye protection. In that moment, stars will emerge along with the two bright points of Venus and Mercury. Sirius, the Dog Star, will reveal itself as the very bright star to the southwest of the blackened sun.
 
Whether at a watch party or your backyard, take the words of late PBS "Star Gazer" Jack Horkheimer and "keep looking up!"

See the time lapse video taken by CSU associate professor of physics Andrew Resnick:

 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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