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Local News

Deep Partial Eclipse Will Darken Skies Sunday Afternoon

Special telescopes will be set up at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace, allowing for safe view of the astronomical event

If life seems a little less bright Sunday afternoon, it’s probably not your imagination or the blues.

More likely, it’s due to a “deep partial solar eclipse” — caused by the moon moving directly between the Earth and the sun.

The astronomical event will begin at 5:23 p.m. and end at 7:43 p.m., according to Chuck McPartlin, outreach coordinator for the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit.

This eclipse gets the added adjective “deep,” McPartlin said, because more than 50 percent of the sun will be covered. In this case, the coverage will be 84 percent on the Central Coast, McPartlin said.

It won’t create total darkness but it definitely will be noticeable, especially if low clouds and fog stay away. (Sunday’s forecast is for clear skies in the afternoon and evening.)

Some parts of the world, including Northern California, will experience what is called an “annular eclipse” on Sunday, in which the sun will be totally blocked, but its outer edges will still be visible, creating what is often referred to as a “ring of fire.”

Partial eclipses are not uncommon, but often are most visible in unpopulated areas, McPartlin noted.

Annular eclipses differ from total eclipses because the edges of the sun are still visible. In a total eclipse, the sun is totally blocked.

Solar eclipses occur on the new moon, McPartlin explained. The moon varies in distance from the Earth, and the farther away it is at the time of the eclipse, the more of the sun’s edges are visible.

The last full moon was what is known as a “super moon,” meaning it was relatively close to Earth. This new moon is at the other end of that orbit, meaning it’s relatively far away.

Probably the most important thing to know about eclipses is not to look directly at the sun. Doing so, even for brief periods, can cause severe eye damage and blindness.

South Coast residents can take advantage of special viewing scopes that will be set up at the Camino Real Marketplace by McPartlin and other members of the local Astronomical Unit.

The planet Venus will pass in front of the sun on June 5, something that will not happen again for 105 years. (NASA photo)
The planet Venus will pass in front of the sun on June 5, something that will not happen again for 105 years. (NASA photo)

Their telescopes will be outfitted with special filters that will allow only .001 percent of the sun’s light through, McPartlin said.

The group, which plans to set up in the plaza near the movie theaters from 4 to 8 p.m., will have two kinds of scopes — some with “white-light” filters and others with “hydrogen alpha” filters.

The white-light filter will give a more natural view of the sun, while the hydrogen alpha filters will provide a reddish view of the outer layer of the sun, including details not otherwise visible.

McPartlin cautions against trying to view the eclipse through homemade set-ups such as mylar balloons or CDs. Most don’t provide adequate protection to the eyes, he said.

Another, much rarer astronomical event will take place next month — a Transit of Venus — when the planet appears to pass in front of the Sun. It takes place on June 5.

That won’t happen again for 105 years, McPartlin said.

With proper viewing equipment, Venus will be visible as a small black dot on the Sun — starting at 3 p.m. and ending at sunset.

» Click here for everything you’d want to know about eclipses.

» Click here to find places online to view the eclipse.

» Click here for a calculator showing future eclipses.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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