August 1st’s Eastern Solar Eclipse

On Friday, August 1st, the world gets its first total eclipse of the Sun since March 29, 2006. The path of totality crosses far-northern Canada, the Arctic, Siberia, and northern China.

But more than a billion people in a much wider area get to see at least a bite taken out of the Sun that day. From sunrise on the northeastern fringes of North America, to sunset in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia, the partial part of the eclipse sweeps across a huge area of the world.

Solar eclipse path on August 1, 2008
Who'll see the solar eclipse on August 1st? Click on the image to see the entire map. Anyone within the dark gray band will see the Sun completely covered by the Moon. Elsewhere, black lines give the percentage of the Sun’s diameter covered at mid-eclipse. You can interpolate between the blue and red lines to find when partial eclipse begins and ends at your location, in Universal Time (GMT).
Sky & Telescope
The map at right shows the fortunate area (click here to see the entire globe). Black lines parallel to the total-eclipse track give the percent of the Sun's diameter covered by the dark bite of the Moon at the time of maximum eclipse. Red and blue lines give (in Universal Time) the beginning and end times of the partial eclipse.

Much of Europe, the Middle East, and southern Asia witness at least a slight nick in the Sun. For example, Londoners get to see 22% of the Sun's diameter covered; for Muscovites it's 58%.

Early risers in northeasternmost North America will have something to view as well. Watchers in Newfoundland and Labrador with a flat and cloud-free east-northeastern horizon can see the Sun dented by about 20% or 30% just after it rises. From Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the last bit of the Moon leaves the Sun's edge just after sunrise.

LATE ADDITION comet alert: On July 31st, Brian G. Marsden of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory issued an electronic circular (MPEC 2008-067) about a newly discovered sungrazing comet, C/2008 O1 (SOHO), that might be faintly visible to observers in the path of totality during this eclipse. He estimated that it could be of visual magnitude 4 or 5, about 2.3° west-southwest of the Sun's center.

Even if you're nowhere near the Moon's shadow, you still have a chance to watch the eclipse — online. Many observers are planning to set up live streaming video on the Internet. You can select from the sites on the growing list below.

Remember: it's never safe to look directly at the Sun's dazzling surface — no matter how little of it remains uncovered! Fortunately, you can view the partially eclipsed Sun without risking your eyesight. Here's how.

The next total solar eclipse comes on July 22, 2009, this time over the western Pacific and more populated areas of China. With totality lasting 6 minutes 39 seconds, it promises to be the longest blackout until June 2132. Many eclipse-chasers are already preparing to see it.

See NASA's website for a more technical discussion of the 2008 solar eclipse, detailed local predictions, and related topics.


LIVE WEB COVERAGE of the eclipse:


Here's a prediction of the shape of the Sun's corona on August 1st (warning, contains spoiler!).


Gonna take pix? Submit them here!

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