Total eclipse on April 8 will be ‘unforgettable’

It’s here!

Well, almost.

On April 8, the moon will pass in front of the sun, eclipsing its luminous face and casting a 124-mile-wide shadow across North America from Mexico, the Midwestern United States and into eastern Canada.

Millions of sky-watchers along this path will be able to witness daytime darkness for up to four and a half minutes.

Total solar eclipses are the most magnificent phenomena in the heavens. An experience like no other, they leave a deep and lasting impression of awe and wonder.

Though solar eclipses occur just about every year somewhere on Earth, they do not happen in the same place very often.

This year’s eclipse is just seven years after the 2017 eclipse that spanned the United States from Oregon to the Carolinas, but the next one to cross the U.S. is not until 2045.

Still, there are eclipses elsewhere in the world including one in 2044 that will touch just three states.

One must be completely within the 124-mile-wide moon shadow’s path to experience totality. Outside of that a partial eclipse will be seen, with only a portion of the sun seeming to be blocked.

In every case, eye protection must be used when viewing an eclipse; this includes all partial phases leading to totality. Even momentary looks at the sun with the naked eye will risk long-lasting vision problems.

However one can safely look directly at the sun during totality (the period of total darkness when the moon completely covers the sun) without eclipse viewing glasses. These are easily obtained by ordering online, at public libraries, and at state parks and recreation centers.

For my various readers here in Maryland and out in Kentucky and Wisconsin — unless you travel to where the path of totality passes — this is the amount of sun you can expect to see blocked at eclipse mid-point, and the local timing:

• Chestertown/Rock Hall: start, 2:05 p.m.; maximum, 3:21 p.m.; 88% of sun covered; ends, 4:33 p.m.; totality length, 2 minutes and 28 seconds.

• Gallatin County (Warsaw), Kentucky: start, 1:51 p.m.; maximum, 3:08 p.m.; 98% of sun covered; ends, 4:24 p.m.; totality length, 2 minutes and 59 seconds.

• Milwaukee/Cedarburg, Wisconsin: start, 12:52 p.m.; maximum, 2:08 p.m.; 90% of sun covered; ends, 3:21 p.m.; totality length, 1 minute and 58 seconds.

Also in April, Jupiter only offers a brief window for viewing 45 minutes after sunset in early April (western sky). Try using binoculars April 10-15 to spot Uranus just above Jupiter in the deepening twilight.

In the eastern early morning skies, Mars and Saturn are gaining altitude. The two planets will appear close from April 5 to April 12 (closest on April 10), with a thin crescent moon near Mars on April 6.

By the end of the month, Mars and Saturn will have separated, Mars’ faster orbit taking it further away from Saturn.

Viewing both planets will improve in May and June.

April’s full moon is on the 23rd.

Take the opportunity to view the April 8 solar eclipse, traveling to see it in totality or staying home and at least watching the partial eclipse.

I can assure you from experience there is nothing like seeing a total eclipse. The temporary darkening (you will even see stars and planets), the eerie shadows of blocked sunlight on the ground as it passes through the leaves of trees and the overall feeling — just unforgettable!

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