MCCC Physics Professor Says Partial Solar Eclipse Worth Seeing in Philadelphia Region

Eclipse-1Kelli Corrado Spangler, an assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at Montgomery County Community College, is used to inviting the community to explore the night sky at the College's research-grade Observatory, but this month she is encouraging area residents to turn their eyes – protected of course – toward the heavens during the day.

On August 21, the nation will experience a rare astronomical event – a solar eclipse – which will darken the day sky to varying degrees across the country. The path of the eclipse begins off the Oregon coast at about 10:15 a.m. (PDT) and tracks to the southeast, ending in South Carolina at about 2:45 p.m. (EDT).

Southeastern Pennsylvania will experience a partial eclipse, with the moon eclipsing about 75 percent of the sun, beginning at 1:21 p.m. and peaking at 2:43 p.m.

Even though our area will not experience a total eclipse, Spangler said the event is still worth experiencing, but she preached caution.

"Don't look directly as the sun, you can seriously damage your eyes," Spangler said. "You can make a simple pinhole projector, use a telescope with a special filter, or use special solar eclipse glasses, that look like 3D movie glasses, that you can buy online. You can even use welder's goggles if you happen to have them."

Spangler will be in the optimal location for the eclipse, as a guest at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tenn., where she will give a presentation on what is takes to get good photographs of an eclipse.

"I'm extremely excited about it," Spangler said. "At that moment of totality, they say your hair starts to stand up on end, birds stop singing, and you live through this surreal moment of darkness."

Though the College will not host an event for viewing the eclipse, Spangler said that local organizations, such as the Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association and the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers, will offer special viewing events on the day of the eclipse.

(Photo courtesy of Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel)