Catch a Celestial Matinee in Longbranch

Catch the partial eclipse of the sun Thursday afternoon if the heavens part or from the comfort of your computer.
Catch the partial eclipse of the sun Thursday afternoon if the heavens part or from the comfort of your computer via a live webcast.
If we get rain and clouds, as the weather geeks have forecasted, this may be what we'll see.
If we get rain and clouds, as the weather geeks have forecasted, this may be what we’ll see.
You want to watch the moon eat the sun?

Well, North America has the best seats for Thursday’s partial eclipse of the sun, according to… well everybody, including NASA and just about every professional stargazer out there.

One thing everyone agrees on is that this celestial matinee is one cool event – the fourth and final eclipse of the year.

And it’s free, if our clouds part for us to see a new moon move across the face of our sun.

“The best views will be in the U.S. Northwest and northern Canada, especially Prince of Wales Island,” according to the Associated Press.

This event begins at 1:35 p.m. and ends at 4:20 p.m., according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

I found a good explainer by Phil Plait of Slate’s Bad Astronomy Blog here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2014/10/21/solar_eclipse_partial_eclipse_on_oct_23.html.

Here is how the eclipse works, Plait writes:

“The Moon orbits the Earth once per month, and the Earth orbits the Sun once a year. The Moon’s orbit is tilted to Earth’s orbit by about 5°, so as it goes around the Earth it passes through the Earth’s orbital plane every two weeks or so. If the Moon’s orbit weren’t tilted, we’d get a solar eclipse every month when the Moon passed between the Earth and Sun. Since it is tilted, though, sometimes it’s “above” the Sun at new Moon, and sometimes “below.” We only get eclipses rarely because the Moon has to be crossing the plane of Earth’s orbit at the same time as its new Moon, so that it gets exactly between us and the Sun.”

But DO NOT look at the sun directly without proper glasses.

Here is a guide on how to view a solar eclipse safely: http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how.html.

All this fun is tricky for us in the Pacific Northwest, where rain is the norm this time of the year. The weather geeks are all forecasting rain and clouds for Thursday.

But fret not. The event will be broadcast live on the web at http://www.ccssc.org/webcast.html by the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga.

Happy viewing Longbranch.

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