NASA Solar Astrophysicist shares helpful ‘Eclipse Tips’

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Dr. Alphonse Sterling covers solar eclipses, much like our WHNT News 19 sports team covers the Crimson Tide - early and often.

“My first attempt did not go very well,” joked Sterling.

He's learned a thing or two since this 'rookie' eclipse experience, ten years ago in Ghana.

“It’s a very nerve-wracking situation, a very short amount of time," he said.

That's Dr. Sterling's biggest piece of advice, this is not the time to learn a new camera.

“The amount of time that the moon totally covers the sun is only about two to two and a half minutes depending where you’re at," said Sterling.

Safety is also a big factor.

“So anytime that any part of the bright sun is exposed, you have to be using approved safety glasses or safety materials,” he said.

Viewers in Huntsville will not experience a total solar eclipse like Nashville and Clarksville, Tennessee, but about 97 percent of sunlight will be blocked, so we'll still get a great view.

“You can see the sun look like a crescent, it looks like a moon that is very young, it looks like a crescent moon, and that’s the way the sun will appear when you look at it at that time," said Sterling.

Like football games, the main event won't be the only entertainment.

The eclipse will affect other aspects of life, like lower temperatures and strange shadows.

“The light is coming from a very narrow sliver which means the shadow is being cast by that very narrow sliver of sunlight, so the shadows will be much sharper than they usually are," he said.

And unlike college football, this is an event where everyone can go home a winner.

NASA will be studying many aspects of this eclipse for scientific purposes. Sterling said while researchers have a pretty good idea of how the sun works, they use the eclipse to view some of the outer atmosphere of the sun, that they can't normally see.

WHNT News 19 has done several stories about the upcoming solar eclipse. Click here to learn more about taking safe photographs.