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UA astronomers planning solar eclipse viewing event at Gorgas Library


The University of Alabama is gearing up for the upcoming solar eclipse. Faculty from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will host a viewing event on Monday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m.

A booth will be set up in front of Gorgas Library with special viewing glasses. The eclipse doesn’t hold value for astronomers, but it’s considered a rarity in the Cosmos. It’s not rare for planets to have Moons, but the ability of Earth’s satellite to create an eclipse is considered unique.

Doctor Jeremy Bailin teaches astronomy at UA. He says Alabama will only get a partial eclipse, but it’s a lucky break that the Moon lines up with the Sun this way at all.


“And it happens to be just at the right distance from us that the apparent size of the moon and the apparent size of the Sun are basically the same, which means that if they're lined up perfectly, the moon just perfectly blots out the sun,” said Bailin.

Pat Duggins

Eclipse watchers can use special viewing glasses they can make their own pinhole projectors. That’s a piece of paper with a tiny hole punched in it. Sunlight shines through the paper and onto the ground creating an image of the Moon covering the Sun. A third alternative is what’s called welder’s glass. That’s a small rectangular piece of smoked glass that fits into a welder’s mask. Onlooker can look through the glass safely to eclipse. No one should look directly into the Sun. Doctor Bailin says viewers in Alabama won’t get a total eclipse…

 “What we will notice is that the sun will be darker, and the quality of the light is a little bit different. And if you either look at it with eclipse glasses, or if you use like some sort of pinhole projection, to get an image of the sun on the ground, you'll notice that a look kind of like a crescent moon, you'll have like a crescent Sun instead.

Along with the Moon blotting out the Sun, Bailin said viewers on Earth could experience another phenomenon. Sunlight shining through the leaves of trees can create crescent shapes on the ground. During an eclipse in 2017, APR news published photos of these effect at

The weather calls for overcast skies and rain on the day of the Eclipse. But, Bailin says that could change. Alabama viewers will get only a partial eclipse, but the Associated Press says certain cities in the path of the event could see the Moon completely blot out the Sun. Dallas, Little Rock, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Buffalo could experience a total eclipse, if the weather is good. Erie, Pennsylvania, Burlington, Vermont are also in the path of the event.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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