Rise early Sunday to view sun's eclipse

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Nancy Parsons

Landmark News Service

Have you ever looked at the sun and thought it looked like someone took a bite out of it?
If your answer is “no,” then you will have an opportunity to change your answer to “yes” early Sunday, Nov. 3.
There will be a rare hybrid eclipse of the sun.
According to Carol Holmberg, planetarium manager at The Settlemyre Planetarium at the Museum of York County in Rock Hill, the eclipse will begin in the Atlantic Ocean, 600 miles east of Jacksonville, Fla., and sweep across the Atlantic and into Central Africa, ending in Somalia.
“Hybrid eclipses (like all solar eclipses) occur when the moon passes between the sun and the earth,” Holmberg said. “During most of this eclipse, the surface of the sun will disappear and there will be a total eclipse of the sun. But at eclipse beginning, the moon will appear slightly too small to cover the entire solar surface and observers will see a thin, bright ring instead of the usual disc-shaped sun.”
“The sun will look like you've taken a bite out of it,” Holmberg added. “It's unusual.”
The eclipse begins at sunrise at 6:46 a.m. with the sun already partially eclipsed. Maximum eclipse occurs at 6:47 a.m. when about one-fifth of the sun's surface area will be covered.
The eclipse ends 20 minutes later at 7:07 a.m. Because the best part of the eclipse is at sunrise and the few minutes afterward, viewers will need a low, clear, east-southeast horizon.
“The eclipse is going to be at its most spectacular at sunrise,” Holmberg said.
Only a partial solar eclipse will be visible in this area. At its deepest, about 20 percent of the sun's surface will be covered by the moon.
Holmberg suggests viewers go to a lake where they can look over the water. She said a golf course or above a tree line are also good viewing options.
Daylight Saving Time ends just a few hours before the eclipse on Sunday.
“Be sure to set your clock back one hour to wake up at the correct time,” Holmberg noted.
Holmberg said that even though the moon will block part of the sun's disk, you should never look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the sun is always dangerous and can permanently damage your eyes. Staring at the sun during an eclipse is no less  dangerous than on any other day.
“Never look directly at the sun with just your eyes. Don't use homemade filters of any kind. Pop Tart wrappers, CDs, layers of exposed film, smoked glass and Mylar balloons may reduce the amount of visible light that reaches your retina but they do not stop the damaging radiation that can permanently harm your vision,” Holmberg said.
Holmberg also encouragers viewers not to use filters that have not been designed specifically to look at the sun. Sunglasses, photographic filters and welder's glass with a rating lower than No. 14 are all unsafe, she said.
“Don't look at the sun directly through a camera, binoculars or a telescope. They magnify the sun's energy, causing even more serious harm. Don't combine a solar filter designed for naked eye viewing with one of these devices either,” Holmberg added.
Holmberg said viewers will need assistance to view the eclipse. She said you won't be able to view the eclipse without special equipment.
“You will need special equipment,” Holmberg said. “You can't see the eclipse without it. There's nothing to see with your eyes and you could damage your eyes.”
Holmberg said there are filters specifically designed for solar viewing.
The Museum of York County has a limited number of free safe viewing glasses available to museum visitors through Saturday. One pair per visitor will be given with a paid admission and museum members are always free. Holmberg said the solar glasses are available as a courtesy of NASA.
Holmberg encourages anyone interested in obtaining the glasses to call the museum at (803) 329-2121 to make sure the glasses are still available.
Welder's glass with a rating of No. 14 or higher is safe for brief looks at the sun. Holmberg said it should be noted that it takes two pieces of No. 10 glass firmly taped together to equal one piece of No. 14.
A safe way to view a solar eclipse is to view it indirectly by making a pinhole projector. The image is usually small. A good set of directors can be found on the web at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/eclipses/3306081.html.
The Settlemyre Planetarium at The Museum of York County has the only digital planetarium in the area. Public planetarium programs are presented Tuesday – Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and are included in the museum admission price.

For details, visit www.chmuseums.org.