Something great about the solar eclipse on August 21 is that anyone in its path can observe it without expensive or complex equipment. It’s important, though, to take safety precautions so that you do not damage your vision while observing the eclipse.
Solar eclipse glasses will be included with general admission to the Science Center on eclipse day, and they’re free at our other viewing locations, while supplies last. These glasses will protect your eyes while you look directly at the sun.
But scientists who study the sun during a solar eclipse want a better view than these glasses will allow them, so they’ll turn to telescopes fitted with special filters.
If you visit the Science Center during the solar eclipse or later this fall for solar viewing, you will get to try out some of these filters and see the sun like you never have before!
For the Sun’s Surface: White Light Filter
A white light filter cuts out the UV light emitted by the sun to keep your eyes safe while viewing. This allows you to see the sun’s surface in detail, which looks a lot like an orange peel with its pits, valleys and ridges. Also with this filter, we can see sunspots, which are darker regions that range in size from the diameter of the earth to hundreds of times that large.
During the eclipse at the Science Center, we’ll use white light filters on our telescopes so that you can see these details of the sun before the moon blocks your view!
For Solar Flares: Hydrogen Alpha Filter
A ruby-quartz filter allows hydrogen alpha light to enter, but blocks out all other light from the sun’s spectrum. With hydrogen alpha light, we can observe solar prominences (also called solar flares) that are otherwise invisible to us because the sun’s brightness usually blocks them out.
When you visit the Science Center on select Saturdays this fall, you’ll be able to observe the sun with this type of filter in the Crosby Observatory. This experience will be included with general admission.
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