Shedding light on the solar eclipse

| 18/08/2017

Would you be able to find out the best time and place in Cayman to view the August solar eclipse and how much of the sun will be obscured here?

Auntie’s answer: For anyone who is not aware, a solar eclipse is coming; the big day is Monday, 21 August. While there is one very organised viewing that I know about, there are also ways to experience this phenomenon on your own.

The University College of the Cayman Isalnds (UCCI) is holding a special event open to the public for anyone who wants to view the eclipse. For those who can make themselves free during the day, the observatory will be set up to experience the eclipse, which will occur between 12:38pm and 3:36pm when the moon’s orbit brings it between the sun and Earth.

Tiyen Miller of the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society (CIAS) explained that the “greatest eclipse” will occur at 2:07pm, when 55% of the sun will be obscured by the moon. “(The sun) will look a bit like a cookie with a big bite taken out of it,” he said.

The path for the total solar eclipse runs right across the US, and I know of people making a special trip north just to experience that. But the observatory will be offering quite a show right here in Cayman.

The viewing facility at UCCI, organised by CIAS, will include appropriately equipped solar telescopes and live projection at the observatory available for the whole period of the eclipse. In addition, Dart’s Minds Inspired has donated eclipse-viewing glasses for the event, which are the only safe way to look directly at the sun during that time. Anyone who looks up without protection or views the eclipse through any standard telescope or binoculars risks permanent eye damage.

As I said, the UCCI observatory event is free and open to all. There is no need to book and I am told that they will accommodate as many people as they can. Dr William Hrudey, for whom the observatory is named, will be among those on hand to direct the viewing and answer questions.

Do not despair if you cannot attend, because CIAS offers tips on how to view the eclipse safely in other ways, if you do not have your own eclipse-viewing glasses.

The age-old method of using a piece of paper with a tiny hole pricked in the centre still works. You use the paper to cast a shadow on the ground a few feet away and your homemade “pinhole camera” will project a clear image of the obscured sun.

And here’s one I had not heard of before and should be easy to do in Cayman. “Just find a nice shade tree with small leaves that cast little speckles of light on the ground,” Miller said. “During the eclipse, each of the speckles of light will show an image of the eclipse.” If you are sceptical of trying this, don’t be, because he pointed out, “This one is really fun.”

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (5)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I was told to use a pan of water and observe the reflection

    • Anonymous says:

      don’t do this one…it can still cause eye damage similar to snow blindness or glare off of the water during high sun.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Whilst the Eclipse event at the UCCI Observatory involves both the Cayman Islands Astronomical Society and Dart’s Minds Inspired, it was, in fact, organized by the UCCI Observatory, not only the CIAS as suggest by your corespondent.

  3. Anonymous says:

    100% of the sun might be obscured if Tropical Storm Harvey has any say in the matter.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cant hide from the sun here in the islands…why would you not be able to view it outside anywhere? NEXT Q.