Eclipse viewing at the Rockwall County Library Monday

(ROCKWALL, TX – August 20, 2017) The 2017 eclipse is upon us here in Rockwall. First contact is at 11:40 and last contact is at 2:40…that’s a fancy way of saying when it starts and finishes.  It will be darkest around 1:10:43.2 seconds…give or take a few microseconds (astronomer humor!)

Most of my astronomy colleagues have already left town and are now in a full-blown panic, searching for a cloud-free space along the line of totality according to the 72-hour weather forecast.  The crush of traffic and people along totality will be record-breaking.  I hope they are all safe and no one runs out of food, fuel and water.  Yes, seeing a total eclipse is a moving event, a bucket-list item that one must check off, but more on that later.

Come out to the Rockwall County Library Monday to see the Eclipse!

This may sound like I’m beating the drum, but here in Rockwall it will NEVER be safe to look at the Sun without approved Solar Safety Glasses.  If you come to our event at the Rockwall County Library during the eclipse, we will have approved safety glasses, as well as solar safe telescopes.  The 350 pairs of solar filter glasses we have obtained from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab are on the certified and accredited vendors list produced by the American Astronomical Society.

My last column addressed how to obtain safe glasses.  In the words of the famous mobster….”faggetaboutit”. You’re too late.  There are probably no more actual, safe products to be had. So you’re coming out to the Library and you will have a great time.  Here’s the good news.  Actually, here’s the great news.  I’ll skip all the techno-stuff about ISO certifications on glasses from now on because you can’t find glasses.

With your two tiny eyes, you will see the black sliver of moon sliding over the yellow sun. However if you are able to come out to the Rockwall County Library and look through solar safe telescopes, you will see the surface details of the moon as the sun pours around the rims and valleys.  This is because of the large, 127mm aperture of the telescope compared to your tiny (7mm) eye. On my special (40mm) Hydrogen-alpha scope, you will be able to see (if they are active) the sun’s fires shooting off its limbs. These are called prominences and loops.  These are the living fires of our life-giving sun.  For perspective, I provided the relative size of the solar glasses and the two telescopes below.  Notice even the scary “Danger” cap on the very special Hydrogen Alpha telescope.  Even the pros don’t mess around with this stuff.

NASA recommends the following (

Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:

·      Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard

·      Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product

·      Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses

·      Not use homemade filters

·      Ordinary sunglasses — even very dark ones — should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers

WARNING: Permanent eye damage can result from looking at the disk of the Sun directly, or through a camera viewfinder, or with binoculars or a telescope even when only a thin crescent of the Sun remains. When 1% of the Sun’s surface is still visible it is about 10,000 times brighter than the full moon. Staring at the Sun under such circumstances is like using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight onto tinder. The retina of your eye is delicate and irreplaceable. There is little or nothing a retinal surgeon will be able to do to help you. Never look at the Sun during a partial eclipse unless you have adequate eye protection, like the kind shown above and described in this column.

Shout out to Rockwall-Heath High School: Huge thanks in advance to Mrs. Nicole Harvey and her students from the Astronomy Club at RHHS for offering to volunteer to help for this event.  Since we have no way of predicting how many people will come to the event, it’s comforting to know that there are a bunch of able-bodied students to help out in case things get crazy.

Recycle and Share: During the eclipse event at the Library we will have Recycle boxes to dispose of your glasses.  This serves two purposes. For folks arriving and leaving early, the glasses can be reused and equally importantly, as I await guidance from NASA on proper disposal instructions, we won’t just toss these into the trash.  Please be kind to each other and the environment by sharing and recycling.

Looking Forward to 2024: We all know that everything is bigger in Texas and this includes eclipses. Others  joke about this, but it’s true. In 2024, the next total eclipse to pass over America will pass right over the DFW Metroplex.  When I say the 2024 eclipse will be bigger, that means the time of total darkness right here in Rockwall will be just over FOUR minutes.  This is almost double the maximum amount of total darkness on the eclipse happening Monday. Stay tuned. I have big things planned!

One final note about kindness.  I will be profoundly grateful to see large groups of people gathered together in peace and harmony everywhere across our great nation on Monday, especially here in Rockwall, enjoying a celestial event.  Many of you who know me, understand how much violence and conflict I witnessed in nearly a quarter century of military service and now it seems that there is strife on our own shores.  Maybe if we all keep looking up a little more, there will be less strife.

Clear Skies and Keep Looking Up! 

By Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Max Corneau, aka AstroDad.

Eclipse Magic and What We Will Observe:

My two solar telescopes provide safe viewing in both natural (white light) and Hydrogen Alpha (Solar Flames) in great detail. When looking through the safety glasses, it’s just like looking at the moon, except it will be passing over the Sun.  You won’t see the same detail as the telescopes, but you will see the advancing and receding eclipse.  When looking though the telescopes, you may be able to see the effect of the terrain on the moon on the solar shadow.  The moon is NOT flat.   But there are some cool phenomena associated with the partial eclipse such as Sun Dapples, Sunspot trickery and more.   I’m really looking forward to a safe event, good weather and most of all….Clear Skies!

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