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Solar eclipse, August 21, 2017


September 6, 2017 by Garrett Mitchener

Dear Diego,

I hope all is well. I’d like to tell you about something special that happened here in Charleston. On August 21, 2017, there was a total eclipse of the sun, and it was visible from Charleston.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly between the sun and the earth. The moon’s shadow covers a small part of the earth. If the timing is just right, the eclipse is total, and the moon completely blocks the sun for one to two minutes! The moon goes around the earth in an orbit that is almost a circle. It sticks out above and below the earth’s orbit around the sun. That means that there are only two times each year that the moon can eclipse the sun. Usually, the moon isn’t in quite the right place, and it only partly covers the sun. But this past August, everything lined up, and there was a total eclipse. It was visible in much of the United States. We got to see it in Charleston. Eclipses often happen over the ocean, where no one can see them. So we were very lucky.

Normally, the sun is too bright to look at. You can only look at it safely through special glass or plastic that is so dark that it blocks anything dimmer than the sun. I had a piece of the right kind of glass. I also made a projector. A physics professor at the college where I teach wrote directions for making it. Light from the sun passes through two lenses and forms an image in the bottom of the box. The image is nice and big, and safe to look at.

I went to my friend Allan’s house to view the eclipse. I know him from church. He invited me and some other friends to watch with him. He’s the man you see in the pictures. We had a lot of fun watching the moon slowly cover the sun.

At the moment of totality, when the sun is completely covered, it’s safe to look at. You can see a ring of faint light called the corona. The sky gets very dark. It’s beautiful. We almost didn’t get to see it because the sky was cloudy, but the clouds broke at just the right time. I was able to get some nice pictures.

Natural spectacles like this are so much fun to see. They make me think that God has scattered them around creation as gifts to us, just to make our lives more interesting and beautiful.

Projector image of partially eclipsed sun

Projector image of partially eclipsed sun

Allan taking a picture of the projector image

Allan taking a picture of the projector image

View of the moon and corona



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