Everything you need to know to watch Monday’s eclipse

Tribune News Service (TNS)

The big day has arrived. Here’s what you need to know about the Great American Eclipse happening Monday afternoon, according to experts:

Q: What is happening in this eclipse?

A: It’s a solar eclipse, when a “new” moon — roughly 238,900 miles from Earth — passes directly in front of the sun — which is about 93 million miles from Earth. This is an astronomical rarity that occurs only two to five times a year, someplace on Earth, for just a couple hours as the moon makes its 1.4 million-mile orbit around the Earth, and the Earth makes its 585 million-mile orbit around the sun. Monday’s eclipse will be a total eclipse where the moon completely covers the sun, casting a shadow over a portion of the Earth for a time. This is the first total eclipse visible from the United States since 1979, and the next one won’t be until 2024.

Q: When can I view the eclipse?

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A: The eclipse will begin at 1:15 p.m. local time and hit peak coverage about 2:35 p.m. before ending at approximately 4 p.m., according to the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. But a total eclipse will be visible in Oregon at 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (1:15 EDT) as it begins its path heading east across the United States, until 2:49 p.m. in South Carolina. Watch a livestream from NASA.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 photo, Colton Hammer tries out his new eclipse glasses he just bought from the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City in preparation for the Aug. 21 eclipse. Eye doctors urge strict adult supervision for eclipse watchers under 16 years old. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)

Q: How can I view the eclipse here?

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A: The short answer is very carefully and not with the naked eye. Unless you are in the narrow band in the U.S. where the total eclipse is visible for up to two minutes, viewing the eclipse anywhere else — including Pittsburgh — is very dangerous for your eyesight. It can cause blindness to look directly at the sun and all eye experts say you should wear either American Astronomical Society-approved eclipse glasses — which offer protection to your retinas — or not look at it at all. Instead experts say you should use other methods to view the eclipse, including using pinhole projectors like many American schoolkids have and are being taught to make. NASA has a nice how-to on its website.

Q: Can I take a picture of the eclipse with my cell phone?

A: You can, but, without a filter, it will largely distort your photo. That is, unless you are in the narrow band of the country where a total eclipse will be visible for up to two minutes, and you will not need a filter during that time only. If you are in an area, like Pittsburgh, where only a partial eclipse will be visible, experts recommend that one simple way of making your cell phone take a good picture is to hold your eclipse glasses in front of the camera lens. That will allow the camera to shield some of the sun and produce a picture of the partial eclipse. But be sure to only look at the eclipse through your camera lens with the glasses in front of it to avoid damaging your eyes while shooting a photo. You can also take a picture with your cell phone through a telescope equipped with a solar filter, to get an even better photo.

Q: Where can I go to view the eclipse in York County?

A: The short answer is anywhere outside where the moon and sun are visible. St. John’s Blymire’s United Church of Christ, 1009 Blymire Road, Dallastown, will host a solar eclipse viewing session from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday. It is expected that about 79 percent of the eclipse will be seen in the area by about 2:45 p.m. Jeri Jones will set up a 10-inch reflector telescope with a solar filter. For weather updates on the day of the event, call Jones at (7170 887-7103. For more information, call the church at (717) 244-0655.

Q: What is the chance that the weather will obscure my view of the eclipse?

A: The forecast is good for Monday along most of the total eclipse route. But, forecasting cloud cover is one of the trickiest parts of weather prognostication because of the vagaries of forces (temperature, moisture, humidity, terrain and other factors) that create clouds. Even the best cloud forecasts in the country did not attempt to pinpoint whether the relatively small portion of the sky you will be looking up at Monday afternoon to watch the eclipse will be clear. So be wary and plan to drive a little bit in another direction if you see a big cloud formation creeping toward the moon and sun as they start to reach their maximum eclipse here at 2:35 p.m.

— The York Dispatch added local information to this wire report.