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      Ready for the Eclipse

      Widener University Observatory Prepares for the Solar Eclipse

      harry augensen

      Observatory Director Harry Augensen

      Observatory Director Harry Augensen said the observatory will be open to the Widener community for the partial solar eclipse August 21.

      Widener University may be hundreds of miles from the best views of the solar eclipse, but the campus is still abuzz over the rare celestial event.

      On August 21, the moon will pass directly between the Earth and sun, creating a solar eclipse that will be visible in much of the United States, according to Harry Augensen, professor of astronomy and physics and director of the Widener University Observatory.

      A long but narrow swath of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will see total coverage of the sun, while all other states, even those far from the path of totality, will see a partial eclipse.

      Because the track of the total solar eclipse cuts across the nation and includes several major metropolitan areas and national parks, the eclipse is drawing widespread attention.

      "The August 2017 total eclipse will almost certainly go down as one of the most watched solar eclipses in U.S. history," Augensen said. "The eclipse path and timing have been calculated with the greatest accuracy, making it easy for anyone interested in seeing it to plan where and when to travel to get a favorable vantage point."

      In Philadelphia and the surrounding region, the moon will begin to block the sun at 1:21 p.m. and will continue to increase until 2:45 p.m., at which point about 80 percent of the sun's diameter will be blocked, Augensen said. By about 4 p.m., the eclipse will be over.

      Augensen and other astronomy professors are traveling to the path of totality, but members of the Widener University community who remain on campus can visit the observatory to view the partial eclipse during its height. The observatory will be open to the campus community from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and is located on the fifth floor of Kirkbride Hall.

      While the eclipse is an awe-inspiring sight, Augensen cautioned against looking directly at the sun's harmful rays without wearing special eclipse glasses or welder's glasses.

      "Ordinary sunglasses are never sufficient to keep the eyes safe from the sun's rays," he said. "But the very safest – and cheapest – way to view a solar eclipse is to simply punch a pinhole in one side of a cardboard box and project the sun's images onto the other side of the box."

      Augensen noted that if you miss this eclipse, another cross-continental total solar eclipse is set to occur in seven years. Set your calendar for April 8, 2024.

      "The only uncertainty is always the weather," Augensen said.


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