What to expect during a solar eclipse

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Monday, August 21st from 12pm-3pm we'll experience a partial solar eclipse. Huntsville will experience 97% obstruction, which will be quite the sight to see!

Although the entirety of the eclipse will take almost 3 hours, the really interesting part happens within a span of 30 minutes. Here we'll break down every phase of a partial eclipse so that you don't miss a thing! We'll also briefly go over what to expect during a total solar eclipse, in case you're making the journey into the path of totality.

Courtesy: NASA

Crescent projections of an eclipse

In Huntsville the partial eclipse begins at noon. As the moon moves over the sun you can use a pinhole projector to view projections of the crescent sun. This effect can also be seen from the openings formed by leaves on trees, so if you're near a tree look at the ground beneath to see the crescent shapes.

Once the sun is about 75% covered you'll start to notice environmental changes: The temperature will drop and skies will begin to darken more quickly. Temperatures can drop up to ten degrees if you're in the path of totality.

Once this happens plants and nocturnal critters will take it as a sign that night is coming. Flowers like tulips and hibiscuses will begin closing and bugs like moths will want to wake up. Orb weaver spiders have even been known to destroy and recreate their webs as if preparing for morning.

If you're in the path of totality the last 2-3 minutes before totality will feature a lot of cool effects:

  • Shadow Bands: with only a sliver of sun coming through you might be able to notice wavy shadows on surfaces. These are called shadow bands or shadow snakes. They're very subtle and not many photos or renderings exist to show you. They've been described as looking like the ripples of light at the bottom of a pool, but dark.
Courtesy: Getty Images

Diamond Ring Effect

  • The Diamond Ring Effect: This will happen within the last minute before totality. This happens when the moon has blocked enough of the sun's light that the corona starts to brighten. The corona is part of the sun's atmosphere that we usually can't see from Earth.
Courtesy: Getty Images

Bailey's Beads

  • Bailey's Beads: Bailey's beads can be difficult to spot because they happen within seconds before totality. The moon is covering up the moon, but beads of light from the sun are still coming through the valleys and terrain of the moon. They'll appear to skim along the edge of the moon for a few seconds
Courtesy: Getty Images

Eclipse Totality

  • Totality: We can now see the sun's corona! IF you are in the path of totality it can be safe to take off your eclipse glasses, but only during the 1-2 minutes of totality.

Huntsville is south of the path of totality, so at NO point will it be safe to take off your glasses. We'll still have a sliver of sun peaking through when the eclipse peaks at 1:30pm. It will feel like night is falling, the sky may take on a grey or blue tint for a few minutes, and then everything will happen in reverse. By 3pm it will be another Monday afternoon in the Tennessee Valley.

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