Kathy Reeves from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics talks about the upcoming solar eclipse.
Before the eclipse begins today, Metro has uncovered the best ways to ensure that you don’t miss any of the celestial wonder.
Are you excited about today’s solar eclipse? Though not quite a once-in-a-lifetime event, the phenomenon is special. Kathy Reeves, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who is involved with the operation of NASA telescopes, took some time to talk to Metro about the event before she headed to Oregon to get a better view of the total eclipse.
What makes this eclipse so special?
This is the first ellipse to cross the U.S. since 1918. There have been eclipses in the U.S. since then, but this is the first one that goes coast to coast since 1918, and that’s pretty cool. It means a lot of people are going to be able to see the totality, the part where the moon completely covers the sun.
How is this different from other eclipses?
Total eclipses happen every couple of years or so, but the location is really the interesting part of this eclipse. The last eclipse that happened in the continental U.S. happened in 1979 (there was one in Hawaii in 1991). It only went over Oregon and Washington in the northern part of the Pacific Northwest. It was similar, but it covered a smaller part of the U.S., so fewer people would have had access to that.
Where are the best locations to view the eclipse?
This one goes from Oregon to South Carolina, for what we call the “passive totality,” where you’ll get total darkness. Nashville, Tennessee is in its path, St. Louis is almost in the path, Portland, Oregon is almost in path, Kansas City — there are several big cities in or really close to the path of the total eclipse. The other cool thing about this eclipse is that everybody in the continental U.S. will be able to see at least a partial eclipse.
What do you experience during a total eclipse?
It gets dark and it’s not quite the same as when it gets dark at night. There’s still little bit of light coming from the sun, the outer layer called the corona. The light has this very strange twilight kind of quality, and it does get a little cooler [in temperature]. Depending on where you are, there might be changes with the birds. We were in Australia for the last one and we noticed the birds stopped chirping.
Can you take pictures of the eclipse?
Yes, absolutely. For the partial eclipse, you need a filter so you aren’t pointing your camera directly at the sun, because it’s still very very bright and you can’t look at it directly. During the total eclipse, you can totally take pictures of the corona. There’s a project out of University of California at Berkeley where they’re trying to gather everybody’s photos from this eclipse to put them all together into a movie. It’s called the Eclipse Megamovie Project.
Do scientists do any experiments during an eclipse?
There are actually lot of different experiments going on with the eclipse. Our group is working on a telescope that’s going to fly on an airplane during the eclipse, along the eclipse path. It’s going to get up to 50,000 feet above the atmosphere and look at sun and the infrared [light]. That’s affected a lot by the magnetic field of the sun, which is scientifically important. A problem with the part of the infrared spectrum we’re looking at is a lot of it gets absorbed by the atmosphere, it doesn’t make its way to the ground. That’s why we’re putting a telescope on an airplane, so we see more of the sun and less of the atmosphere.
Why is it worth it to see an eclipse?
It’s just a beautiful natural event. Pictures don’t do it justice. Having the whole experience is really exciting — seeing it and feeling it and hearing it and being in a group of people all excited about it as it’s happening is really cool. As soon as you see a total eclipse, you think to yourself, "Wow, I gotta do that again."
Today will be different from the standard mediocre slog that starts every working week: An extremely major astronomical phenomenon is happening for the first time in 38 years! The Great American Solar Eclipse, in which the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, blacking out the skies, will occur today from 1:23 p.m. until 4 p.m., with a two-minute peak of total darkness at 2:44 p.m. — although in NYC we’re only expected to glimpse 70 percent “totality,” so, it’ll be more of a browning out, if you will. Speaking of, if you’re free during the day and would like to pair this rare cosmological event with booze (or you’re just looking for some other options besides watching NASA’s live stream on your work computer), here are a handful of eclipse-watch parties at bars, rooftops and museums across the city. Solar-viewing glasses are provided at each so you don’t harm your eyes.
This Midtown rooftop bar will host a watch party Monday from noon to 5 p.m. Come for the panoramic views of the Empire State Building and the Hudson River; stay for the Solar Eclipse of My Heart cocktail. $12, lovagenyc.com
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Catch the eclipse poolside at Dumbo’s hottest new eco-luxury hotel while sipping a Frozen Eclipse (gin, aperol, passionfruit) and noshing on lobster rolls. Even if you don’t get much action astronomywise, the East River views are enough of a sell on their own. 11 a.m. til, $35, 1hotels.com/Brooklyn-Bridge.
Entry is free at this eclipse party on the rooftop of a swanky Chelsea hotel, or it will cost you $40 to reserve a poolside lounge bed. Enjoy a special cocktail for the occasion: the Solar Eclipse Black Martini, with Grey Goose ($14). Just don’t “eclipse” out! Noon-3 p.m., hotel-americano.com.
Make a trip out of it and head to the Rockaways to do your eclipse-gazing oceanside at this waterfront tavern. From noon to 4 p.m., enjoy tunes by DJ Teddy, a Total Solar Eclipse Cocktail, and of course, all the seafood you desire. Post-eclipse, go for a late-afternoon dip. Free, ingoodcompany.com/ bungalow.
The astronomy hang at NYC’s preeminent rooftop farm is called “Commune with the Moon” — reason enough to attend. The event opens with a farm tour from 1:30 to 2:30, followed by the main event of eclipse viewing, yoga from 3 to 5 p.m. (BYO yoga mat) and drinks. $75, brooklyngrangefarm.com.
American Museum of Natural History
If you want to be around folks who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to the cosmos, head to the Hayden Planetarium. The event goes from noon to 4 p.m. and includes a 12:30 p.m. talk and Q&A with the museum’s astrophysics educator Brian Levine. Eclipse viewing begins at 1:30 at the Rose Center for Earth Space. Free with museum admission, amnh.org.
A solar eclipse will hit on Monday.
“Commune with the moon” on the roof at Brooklyn Grange. FACEBOOK.COM/ BROOKLYNGRANGE/
Peep the eclipse, while poolside at Hotel Americano. INSTAGRAM/@HOTELAMERICANO