Sky & Telescope Answers Your Eclipse Questions

A few weeks ago we took to Twitter and Facebook to find out what questions you wanted answered about the August 21st Total Solar Eclipse. Now we're back with the answers!


Q: Can you see solar flares or prominences if there are any?
- John, Facebook

A: Yes — if the prominence is large enough, it will be visible with the unaided eye. It's relatively rare, and your view will lack the "clarity" of prominences captured in images, but it's possible to see them (especially if you're using binoculars).


Q: What's the best way to capture [the eclipse] on camera along with the landscape?
- Dan, Facebook

A: With a very wide-angle lens, maybe 10-to-14mm, in "portrait" format; this will be hard because the eclipsed Sun will be very high in the sky, at least 40° to 60° above the horizon.


Q: What do you hope to learn from this eclipse?
-John, Facebook

A: This eclipse is unusual because it crosses a large, continuous landmass (the continental U.S.). So solar scientists are eager to probe the inner regions of the Sun's corona, which cannot be studied well by any other method except during totality. Also, projects like Citizen CATE and Eclipse MegaMovie will attempt to record how the corona evolves during the 90 minutes that the Moon's shadow will be crossing the U.S. Check out NASA and the American Astronomical Society for a list of planned science projects.


Q: [Are there] star parties locally in North Platte, Nebraska?
-Dave, Facebook

A: We've compiled a list of events calendar here — Sky & Telescope has one, as does NASA, the AAS, and others. We've found that events are often listed in one calendar and not another, so be sure to check them all. Taking a quick look for North Platte, Nebraska, we found a couple nearby events in the AAS calendar.


Q: How viable/practical is the very-near-coast option in South Carolina? I.e., access to the coast, space on or near the coast, etc.
-@rkerr46, Twitter

A: According to Jay Anderson, South Carolina will have one of the cloudiest prospects on eclipse day. But there's a silver lining to that dark cloud: water. Water is cooler than land, so it's less likely to promote clouds. Setting up along the coast is a good option, but you'll want to be within a few kilometers of the water to get the cloud-clearing benefits of sea breezes. Just keep a watch out — sea breezes can occasionally bring thunderstorms too. For those further inland, lakes are a good option: downwind of Lake Marion or Lake Moultrie could be good locations to see totality. Wherever you go, though, be prepared for traffic, and try to arrive at your destination a day before the big day.


Q: At what point during the total eclipse, does it begin to get dark? 80%? 90%?
-@Patrickm55P, Twitter

A:  A total eclipse means the Sun is 100% obscured, by definition! You might notice that your surroundings start to dimn once at least about 80% of the Sun's area is covered. Also, shadows will start to look sharper. But even during totality it never gets really dark, more like twilight. There's light from the Sun's corona, and scattered sunlight from the atmosphere many miles away where the eclipse is not total.


Q: Will [the] eclipse be visible in N.E. Kentucky?
-Kym, Facebook

A: Yes! You will be able to see a deep partial eclipse in northeastern Kentucky, but not a total eclipse. If you want to know more details about when the eclipse will happen at your location, or how much of the Sun will be covered, check out our eclipse widget!


If you'd like to read the answers to more eclipse questions, read Part II. You can also visit our eclipse resources page to learn more about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.

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