Sky-watchers of the night, rejoice! It seems there’s more celestial fun in the cards than initially thought.
Earlier on Tuesday, skies showcased the annual Orionid meteor shower, a display that takes place every year in middle-to-late October as Earth passes through debris left behind by Halley’s comet. The shower is one of two that occur every year, with Aquarids taking place in May.
Now, specialists say a partial solar eclipse will darken skies for spectators across North America on Thursday, October 23rd.
In a partial solar eclipse, the new moon passes in front of the sun and casts the lighter part of its shadow on Earth, making it look like the moon has taken a bite out of the sun. In other words, part of the sun is blocked out.
Although a new moon is needed for a partial solar eclipse to appear, a partial solar eclipse does not happen during every new moon night.
“This is because the plane of the Moon’s orbital path around the Earth is inclined at an angle of 5° to the Earth’s orbital plane (ecliptic) around the Sun,” TimeandDate.com explains. “The points where the 2 orbital planes meet are called lunar nodes. Solar eclipses occur only when a new Moon takes place near a lunar node.”
Photo Courtesy of greatamericaneclipse.com
The ghostly act will take stage in the late afternoon on Thursday between the East and West Coast of the United States, as well as in parts of the Arctic and Mexico.
For those that do plan on watching the eclipse, NASA cautions to be sensible: Staring at the sun – even if it’s a partial eclipse – with the naked eye can cause permanent eye damage.
“The safest and most inexpensive way to watch a partial solar eclipse is by projection,” NASA advises. “Place a pinhole or small opening in a card, and hold it between the sun and a screen – giant sheet of white paper works – a few feet away. An image of the sun will be seen on the screen.”
Other ways to safely view the show are through special, paneled eclipse glasses and a telescope, according to NASA.
Starting at 5 p.m. EDT on Thursday, live feeds will be available via the Coca-Cola Space Science Center at Columbus State University in Georgia, and the Slooh Community Observatory, with its main feed coming from the Prescott Solar Observatory in Arizona.