Get Ready for the Hybrid Solar Eclipse

Skywatchers in much of the U.S. are in for a treat on Friday evening, April 8, when the sun and moon cross paths to create a special hybrid solar eclipse. This unusual type of eclipse means a partial eclipse for some viewers, an annular eclipse for some, and a total eclipse for others.

In the U.S., a partial eclipse will be visible south of a line extending across the nation from southernmost California to central New Jersey with about a 40% partial eclipse in regions like southern Texas and 50% in southern Florida at roughly 6 p.m. EDT / 3 p.m. PDT. Click here for exact times and locations in the U.S.

A hybrid eclipse occurs when the highest point of the moon’s shadow pierces Earth’s surface at some points, but falls short of the planet along other portions of the eclipse path. The curvature of Earth’s surface brings some geographic locations along the path into the umbra while other positions are more distant and enter the antumbral rather than umbral shadow. In this case, the eclipse path starts as an annular eclipse (the moon crosses the sun but does not cover it completely) southeast of New Zealand and stretches across the Pacific Ocean to Panama, Columbia, and Venezuela. It then changes to a total eclipse south of Tahiti, then converts back to an annular near Costa Rica and partial for the U.S.

Extreme care must be taken when watching the solar eclipse, even a partial one. You should never look directly at the sun with the naked eye or even through any optical device like a camera, binoculars, or a telescope. Instead, there are a number of ways to safely view the eclipse that include solar filters and special glasses, and a pinhole projection method. You can even reflect the sun onto a sheet of paper or the ground through a straw hat. After Friday, another solar eclipse (also partial) won’t be visible from the U.S. until 2012.


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