Eclipse 101: Practice safe viewing on Monday

Published 12:15 pm Sunday, April 7, 2024

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It’s humbling to realize our small place in the cosmos. Next week, there will be for many a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness something remarkable.

Those who have not been living under a rock might’ve heard about the total solar eclipse happening on Monday, for which the viewing path spans several U.S. states.

Solar eclipses happen quite often. Two or three times each year, in fact.

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However, total solar eclipses can only be seen every 300 to 400 years from any one place on Earth’s surface, and much of that surface is remote or covered by ocean. In other words, few people will ever get a chance to witness this phenomenon during their lifetime.

While none of Mississippi or Louisiana will be in the path of totality, when the moon covers the sun completely to the point where only the outer ring of the sun is visible, there will be a significant eclipsing of the sun viewable regardless of where you are in those states.

Between 83 and 97 percent of the sun will be blocked from view with the highest percentage to the northwest.

In Natchez and Vidalia, the sun is expected to be a little more than 90 percent eclipsed.

This begins at approximately 12:30 p.m. on April 8 and is over by 3:10 or a few minutes later. The peak time for viewing, when the maximum amount of sun is covered, is around 1:50 p.m.

Keep in mind that a chance of scattered thunderstorms and clouds is also in Monday’s forecast.

The next chance to see a total eclipse here is on Aug. 12, 2045. At that time, Mississippi and Louisiana are expected to be in the viewing area of a total solar eclipse.

Those who can’t wait that long might consider a day trip to Texas or Arkansas.

Anyone who does chance a look at the sun should take proper precautions.

It’s never a good idea to look directly at the sun, regardless of how much of it is blocked from view, for the risk of permanent damage to the eyes.

Eclipse glasses are fairly inexpensive to order online. Protective film can also be placed over the lenses of binoculars or a telescope.

There is also a neat trick one can try. Poke a pinhole in a sheet of paper and hold it up to the sky to project the eclipse on the ground or another surface. However, you should always keep your back toward the sun while looking at a pinhole projection.

Whether you are traveling or decide to step outside over workday lunch on Monday, we wish you safe viewing.