Partial Solar Eclipse May 20, 2012

There is a partial solar eclipse coming up for some of us on May 20, 2012. It is a partial solar eclipse. For some people it will be an annular eclipse, so the moon passes in front of the sun but does not completely cover the sun; instead, a ring of the sun’s disc will still be visible around the moon. In a total solar eclipse, the moon would completely cover the disc of the sun, and only the sun’s corona would shine out behind the moon for the duration of totality. Others of us may only see a crescent sun. And for some of us, we won’t get to see any of it because the sun will have set before the eclipsing begins. See here for details on visibility and your location.

A good article about sharing the eclipse with children can be found here, from the The Planetary Society. Among one of the important things to note is DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN. You will need special equipment to view the eclipse, like eclipse-viewing glasses, solar telescopes, or a pinhole viewer. You can read about making your own pinhole viewer in that Planetary Society article I linked to above.

More information about the eclipse and how to view it safely can be found at this EarthSky article.

It may be too late to receive online orders of solar eclipse-viewing glasses now, but you should still be able to receive them in time for the June 5 transit of Venus, the last transit we will see in our lifetime, unless you can live another 106 years. I’ll post more about the transit later, but if you’re eager to learn more about it, here is a quick link from EarthSky, and a link to transitofvenus.org.

My local astronomy club is hosting viewing parties for both of these events. Maybe yours will too. To find potential astronomy clubs near you, you can start by checking out the Night Sky Network.

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