Observing the October 23, 2014 Partial Solar Eclipse.

Following on the heels of the recent total lunar eclipse, there will be a partial solar eclipse visible from Oakland on the afternoon of Thursday October 23, 2014. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, partially blocking our view of the sun. In this instance, the moon will cover approximately 40% of the sun’s disk at the maximum point of the eclipse.

Unlike the lunar eclipse, you need to take precautions when viewing a solar eclipse. Do not directly look at the sun, even during the maximum portion of the eclipse. Permanent eye damage can occur by looking directly at the partially eclipsed sun, so avoid the temptation to do so. If you want to directly observe the partial solar eclipse, you will need to view it through a telescope with a proper solar filter attachment; purchase some inexpensive ‘eclipse glasses’ made from safe solar filter materials; or obtain #13 or #14 arc-welder’s glass that you can hold in front of your eyes.

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2012 partial solar eclipse visible from Oakland (this is approximately what will  be seen next week at max eclipse).

Alternatively, you can indirectly watch the eclipse unfold by projecting a ‘pinhole’ of sunlight onto a flat surface. If you can put your back to the sun with a flat wall before you, you can curl your index finger, allowing a pinhole of sunlight to pass through. When you find the proper distance from the wall, you will be rewarded with a small image of the eclipse projected on the wall, with the sun being a white partial disk and the moon being the dark ‘bite’ out of the sun.

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Indirect ‘pinhole’ projection onto a wall, using a hand to focus the light.

Here are the key October 23rd eclipse times for Oakland:

Beginning of partial solar eclipse                                    1:54pm PDT

Maximum eclipse (sun is 40% eclipsed)                         3:17pm PDT

End of partial solar eclipse                                            4:33pm PDT

During the maximum eclipse (3:17pm PDT), see if you notice a change in the intensity of the sunlight. Also, notice if the local birds or animals seem to be in any way agitated by this unusual dimming of midafternoon sunlight.

Even partial solar eclipses are somewhat rare (the next partial solar eclipse visible from Oakland will occur in August 2017). So, if you have the time and interest to safely observe this phenomenon in Oakland’s sky on Thursday October 23rd, you’ll be rewarded with a rare glimpse of the moon in its orbit around the earth, slowly passing in front of the sun (weather permitting, of course!).

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Dozens of eclipse images created by sunlight passing between leaves on a tree.

Keeping Oakland Beautiful is everybody’s business.

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