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  • Gloria Hoffner

Eclipse explained

In 2134 B.C. two Chinese astronomers literally lost their heads because of a solar eclipse! The Shujing, the ancient Chinese Book of Documents records that on October 22, 2134 B.C., astronomers to Emperor Zhong Kang were drunk and failed to inform their ruling of the coming solar event. He punished them by cutting off their heads. To be sure this same fate doesn’t happen to you or your residents, be aware that NASA has predicted a total eclipse of the sun will be visible over parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina on August 21, 2017. A total solar eclipse occurs when our Moon lines up in front of the Earth, so that the Moon blocks the Sun’s rays and the Moon’s shadow falls over the Earth. The event lasts for only a few minutes and should never be viewed directly as this can cause permanent eye damage. Other solar eclipses are: 1) A partial solar eclipse when part of the sun remains in view; 2) An annular solar eclipse when it seems daylight has become twilight because much of the sun is still visible and 3) A hybrid eclipse where parts of the eclipse path are annular while other parts are total. This happens when the Moon's umbral shadow pierces Earth's surface at some points, but falls short of the planet along other portions of the eclipse path. Solar eclipses occur between two and five times each year when the Earth’s orbit is on the same elliptical plane as the new Moon. The Moon’s orbit is tilted just over five degrees relative to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This is the reason that normally the Moon’s shadow passes above or below the Earth. There is no danger from a solar eclipse. It is just a fun natural event due to the Sun with a diameter of 864,000 miles being 400 times greater than our Moon which has a diameter of 2,160 miles. However, the Moon is 400 times closer to the Earth than the Sun. Thus, when orbital planes of the Earth , Moon and Sun align during a New Moon, the Moon can appear to blot out the disk of the Sun. During a total solar eclipse, what is visible is the Sun’s corona, the outer atmosphere of the Sun. Experiment: Safe viewing of the solar eclipse. Materials: Pocket mirror, paper with a ¼ inch hole and a sun facing window. Process: Cover the mirror with the paper so the ¼ hole is in the center of the mirror. Place the mirror so it reflects the sunlight on the wall opposite from the window. The image projected by the mirror on the wall will be the Sun’s face. This image will be one inch across for every nine feet from the mirror. The room should be as dark as possible and NO ONE SHOULD EVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN IN THE MIRROR. Result: You will see the sun’s image go dark as the Moon’s shadow falls on the Earth. Experiment: For those communities not located on the path of the eclipse this will demonstrate how an eclipse works. Materials: Flashlight, orange, ball about ¼ the size of the orange (you can make one from clay) and a ruler. Process: Put the orange and the ball on the table in a straight line about 8 inches apart. Stand two feet away from the table and shine the flashlight behind the ball. Result: You will see a shadow on the orange. The clay represents the Moon, the orange represents the Earth and the flashlight represents the Sun. When the (clay) Moon’s shadow falls on the (orange) Earth it demonstrates, what happens during a total solar eclipse.


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