Planetarium show gives you tips to safely view the solar eclipse

For many stargazers and those captivated by the phenomena that takes place up in the sky, there will be an incredibly rare event later this summer that should not be missed.

On August 21, what is being called “The Great American Eclipse” will touch down first at the Oregon coast at 10:15 a.m. and begin its rapid journey through the state and across the country. More specifically, this is a total solar eclipse – meaning on this day for a moment, only lasting about two minutes, the moon will completely block the sun, allowing for an historical and almost unique view in the sky.

To learn more about the details and the science behind this spectacle, I visited the MHCC Planetarium for its preview of the upcoming event.

Hosted by Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan, the show covered many of the various effects that can take place during the eclipse, as well as how to safely view it. At the beginning, Hanrahan shared his experience with the last total solar eclipse that could be seen from Oregon, which took place in February 1979. Unfortunately, due to cloudy conditions he was unable to see the eclipse, thus missing out and having to wait until this year for another shot.

First up, according to Hanrahan, “You’re gonna have to get out of Portland to get the full effect.” Using maps of the eclipse’s path through the state, which can be found online, he pointed out that Salem is a great option to be since it is within the path of totality, and because it is relatively close to Portland compared to other popular viewing areas. But as many Oregon residents know, parts of the state can experience plenty of cloudy weather. Thankfully for trying to see this year’s eclipse, it will take place while summer is in full swing, so the weather is more likely to cooperate.

For students curious about the fundamentals of observing the night sky at any point in time, there is the Observational Astronomy course offered by MHCC (PH109C) taught by instructor Will Blackmore during Summer Term that will include a special field trip to view the eclipse.

In any case, anyone remotely interested in seeing this year’s eclipse should plan ahead because if you miss out on this one, the next total solar eclipse that can be seen from Oregon won’t occur until June of 2169.

Lastly, Hanrahan offered viewing tips, including safety warnings about potential eye damage if one directly views the sun. He advised anyone who plans on trying to capture the historical moment, “Don’t expect to get good pictures.”

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