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"Totality" eludes Michigan, but solar eclipse will still be historic

Image of the partial solar eclipse on October 23, 2014. The darkened spots on the sun are "sun spots," regions of cooler surface temperature.
Ron Moubry
The last partial solar eclipse visible in Michigan happened on October 23, 2014. The darkened spots on the sun are "sun spots," regions of cooler surface temperature.

If you (somehow) haven’t heard, there’s a solar eclipse happening next week that will be visible from coast to coast.

On Monday, Aug. 21, observers in some parts of the country will experience a total solar eclipse. It’s the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse will be visible to people along a narrow “path of totality” stretching from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic coast, from Oregon to South Carolina.

Astronomers are saying, It’s definitely worth the hype.

Unfortunately for those of us in Michigan, Shannon Schmoll says we’ll see a less impressive partial solar eclipse. Schmoll directs the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University.

“You’re going to see the moon go in front of the sun and you’ll see sort of a crescent shape of the sun when that happens,” Schmoll said. “But you won’t see the sky go dark, you won’t see the temperature drop and that sort of thing.”

In the greater Lansing area of Michigan, Schmoll says, people will see the moon cover about 80% of the sun.

You can see what the eclipse will look like in your zip code by entering it here. The last partial solar eclipse visible in Michigan happened in 2014.  

For the luckier folks in the path of totality, the moon will completely cover the sun. When it happens, the sky will go dark, it will get cooler, and constellations and planets that can’t normally be seen in the summer will be visible in the sky.

There are some interesting instances where animals under the path of totality get a little weirded out. Schmoll says scientists have observed animals “getting scared” or going into their nighttime routine during the brief period of totality.

Of course, Schmoll advises people to never look directly at the sun.

“The only time you can look directly at the sun without any type of eye protection is during totality in that path of totality,” Schmoll said. “Here in Michigan at no point should you be looking at the sun without eye protection.”

Regular sunglasses aren’t enough to protect your eyes. There are specialized “eclipse glasses” that provide enough protection.

Read more about how to safely watch and eclipse here.

Schmoll also notes that cameras can be damaged if they’re pointed directly at the sun. Solar filters on the primary lens of your camera are necessary to prevent the lens from damage.

But, for anyone traveling to see the eclipse along the path of totality, Schmoll says just leave your camera in the bag.

“Don’t bother trying to take pictures,” Schmoll said. “You really need to be focusing on the eclipse itself and not messing with technology. Because you do not want to miss a second of this.”

After all, she says, totality will only last a few brief moments.

Listen to the entire conversation with Shannon Schmoll above.

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