As a former educator, and Junior High Science teacher, I am so excited about the solar eclipse that is happening across the USA today!
You have time to still prepare for it even if you have been so busy you forgot all about it. First of all it is a total solar eclipse, which means in select, lucky parts of the USA you will have a moon shadow that covers the entire surface of the sun's view to us, exposing the solar flares that are NOT visible to the naked eye.
The last time this happened was in 1918, I doubt you will remember that... so today is your big chance to be a part of science history. You should feel prepared to be changed forever if this is your first solar encounter...
How to do it safely?
1. You need a few things to keep yourself safe, this isn't something to NOT take seriously: Never look directly at the sun. Period. It can actually damage and cause retina damage, so don't look.
2. If you have proper filters for binoculars, you can view with them. Note: You need to have the proper filters that meet standards for your brand of binoculars.
3. You can use the purchase versions if you planned ahead. If you are just coming to the realization that you should be excited for this opportunity, don't fear...
4. You can make your own viewers:
Here's how: 1. Put one piece of cardboard or a paperplate on the ground
2. Poke a tiny, round hole into the other piece of cardboard
3. With YOUR BACK FACING the sun, raise the cardboard with the hole in above your head and aim the hole at the cardboard on the ground.
4. The hole will project an image of the crescent shape of the eclipse as it moves above you.
Granted, it is a reflected image of the sun, but we all know that looking at the sun even on a normal day isn't a comfortable thing.
If you are stuck indoors, and or it's cloudy: You can stream the information online... check out the interactive map at Watch NASA live This map from NASA runs down when the eclipse begins and ends in different parts of the USA. Totality means the complete covering of the sun. However, in New York, we are only going to get a partial view of the eclipse... you'll have to take a quick drive to North Carolina.
Otherwise, on the East Coast we need to head outside just after 1 PM and pay close attention around 2:30 pm. If you can't get outside, then by all means enjoy a vitual show of the event.
NASA will be streaming live on : https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html http://www.nasa.gov, or on NASA facebook page, it will be LIVE streaming: or on NASA TV Public Education channel. eclipse.stream.live is another place to get a good viewing. ABC7 here in NYC will have updates and live programing.
Experts also warn that taking direct photos of the sun during an eclipse can damage your phone -- so don't do it, just in case. I know I don't have eclipse coverage on my insurance...
Even though in our ancient past eclipse moments were looked up as terrible events or signs; nowadays we understand the phenomenom and can enjoy the once in a lifetime experience without fear.
The ancient Greeks thought of a solar eclipse as an act of abandonment a terrible crisis and an existential threat that meant the king would fall, that terrible misfortunes would rain down on the world or demons had swallowed the sun. (the temperature will drop anywhere from 10-20 degrees during the event, so be prepared to be amazed)
The ancient Chinese have stories of Dragons that swallowed the sun, in many ancient cultures the gods were angry and needed human sacrifice to appease them.
In Transylvania people believed an eclipse was caused by the sun turning it's back on the sins of humanity, creating a poisonous dew.
The Inca viewed it as a sign that the sun God, Inti was angry and made offerings.
Native Americans, particularily the Tewa tribe thought an eclipse showed the sun was angry and leaving the sky to visit his home in the underworld.
Aztec priests predicted that if there were a solar eclipse AND an earthquake on the date 4 Ollin the world would end, so being proactive they went ahead and offerred human sacrifices, just in case.
In Vietnam the sun eater was a frog, Native American Pomo, it was a bear eating the sun, In Yugoslavia it was a werewolf, and in Siberia a vampire.
In ancient Eygpt, Apep, the serpent of chaos and death opposed RA the sun god, and was always trying to devour the sundisc.. but in the end Ra always won.
In ancient India Rahu was an immortal demigod with a severed head. He had a grudge against the moon and the sun, they were the ones who convinced Lord Vishnu to chop off Rahu's head in the first place, after he drank the nectar of immortality -- so he chased them endlessly across the sky, and sometimes caught them. However, he never could keep them in his mouth long, and they passed thorugh the stump of his neck.
In Norse Mythology the sky wolves Hati and Skoll chase the sun and moon endlessly waiting for Ragnarok, when they can swallow their prey and plunge the world into darkness, and herald the final destruction of the world. Luckily, this has never come to pass....
Generally speaking, across the globe, when a demon is trying to eat the sun, there's only one thing to do:
Make as MUCH NOISE as you can until it gets scared and flies away! Then you will survive until the next one. (you could also get rich on YouTube with viral videos of your coworkers or friends acting out)
On the flip side:
in some cultures an eclipse was a great thing to happen! Sometimes it just meant the sun and the moon, widely understood to be a married couple, were working out their issues: cosmic marriage counseling! For Tingit tribes of North America as well as some Austrailan aboriginal cultures, an eclipse meant the sun and moon were having more children. the stars and planets that became apparent in the darkness of the eclipse were those offspring.
For the Batammaliba people of Togo and Benin in Africa an eclipse meant the sun and moon were fighting, so to encourage them to behave, they put aside grudges and differences down here on earth, trying to be a good example to the cosmos.
The inuit believed the sun and moon were siblings, and they quarreled, and they have been in a chase to catch one another ever since.
The Kalina of Suriname also thought they were siblings, but the eclipse meant they were fighting and one sibling was knocked out.
In Persia they said eclipses happen because someone is playing a trick, the Cree, the Choctaw and the Menomini believe that a little boy has captured the sun in a net, usually to get revenge and an animal has to gnaw the net apart to free the sun.
All of the stories, myths and legends have one thing in common: trying to put to words the amazing theater of the vast immenseness of space.
"You get an overwhelming sense of humbleness adn how small and petty we really are compared to the mechanics of the solar system, the clockwork of the universe", says retired NASA astrophysicist and eclipse chaser Fred Espenak. "These events that are taking place, that in no way can we affect or stop."
Wishing you all a momentous day! Be amazed! Be Safe!