On August 21, a total solar eclipse will plunge part of the United States into a brief period of darkness. But people walking around the streets of Pittsburgh that afternoon may not even notice.
This is the first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in nearly four decades. Unfortunately for people in Pittsburgh, the "zone of totality," which is the area where the total eclipse will be visible, is only 70 miles wide. It crosses the country from Oregon to South Carolina.
Because Pittsburgh is more than 400 miles away from the zone of totality, that August 21 will likely seem like a normal Monday afternoon.
"A large section of the sun is going to not be covered by the moon here, that it will maintain near full daytime brightness. If you had a light sensor, you might be able to pick it up, but you're an average human. Our eye adapts and we won't even notice," said Ralph Crewe, the program development coordinator at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center.
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Even though Pittsburgh will only see a partial eclipse, there are ways to mark the historic event without leaving town. The planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center will have a day of programming, featuring nearly a dozen telescopes.
"Our planetarium will feature both solar-based shows and then live feeds from NASA as the moon totally blocks out the sun in various places in the country," said Crewe.
There are also ways to safely view the partial eclipse on your own. There are special, safety assured, glasses made for watching the eclipse. And creating a reflection to watch the shadow can be as easy as grabbing some items from the kitchen, like a colander.
"...during the eclipse, believe it or not, the shadow of the moon will show up in each of these holes and turn them into a series of crescents all throughout it," said Crewe.
Whatever you do: do not look directly at the sun, or use an amateur telescope without proper filters. You can do permanent damage to your eyes in just seconds.
While you may not notice any dimming of the light in the Pittsburgh area, the temperature could change. If it's a bright, sunny day, there could be a 2-to-3 degree drop in temperature for a minute or two during the eclipse.
For more information on the programs available at the Carnegie Science Center on August 21 for the eclipse, visit their website.
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