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solar eclipse

Views from the April 8 solar eclipse. Photo courtesy Andrew Young

By Samantha Rutt

The skies above treated Long Island residents to a mesmerizing display as a partial solar eclipse captivated onlookers on Monday, April 8. With eager eyes turned skyward at its peak around 3:30 p.m., many marveled at the four-minute celestial phenomenon, a sight last seen in 2017.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, casting its shadow on our planet. On April 8, North Americans from Texas to Maine had the opportunity to witness the infrequent event, as the moon partially obscured the face of the sun, creating a spectacle for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse.

For many, witnessing a solar eclipse serves as a reminder of the wonders of the universe and our place within it. 

Where were you during the eclipse? 

At TBR News Media’s East Setauket offices, staff gathered together in the parking lot to catch a glimpse of the moon in front of the sun. Some wore specialized solar viewing glasses — that met the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard — while others relied on alternative methods like pinhole projectors or indirect viewing methods used to observe the eclipse safely.

At Stony Brook University, students gathered in masses on the Staller steps and across campus equipped with eclipse glasses to view the event.

In Port Jefferson village, locals were seen having set picnic arrangements in Harborfront Park. In Three Village, people flocked to the shoreline, completely crowding West Meadow and Stony Brook beaches. 

While some gathered in droves outdoors, others keyed into the television streams as CBS News and NASA, among other platforms, live streamed the event. 

The last solar eclipse visible from Long Island occurred on Aug. 21, 2017, when a total solar eclipse swept across the United States.

While Monday’s eclipse was a partial one in our area and a total eclipse in other parts of the United States, it still captured the imagination of many and provided a unique opportunity for residents. Communities came together to share in the wonder of the celestial show — from backyard gatherings to organized viewing events like those offered at various Suffolk County parks — as residents of all ages savored the experience.

Looking ahead, Long Islanders can mark their calendars for the next solar eclipse visible from our region as New York is not expected to be in another path of totality until 2079. 

As this year’s eclipse drew to a close, the memories of the solar event will linger in the minds of our communities. Later, I wondered how the Native Americans who lived on Long Island centuries ago experienced a total eclipse.

Pixabay photo

With the solar eclipse happening today, we must emphasize the critical importance of viewing it safely.

Do NOT look directly at the sun for any length of time. Staring directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can cause irreparable damage or blindness. Please protect yourselves, your children and your pets. Don’t turn this remarkable celestial day into a moment that will threaten the future vision of anyone in your household.

Use approved solar viewing glasses. Only use specialized solar viewing glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. Regular sunglasses do not offer adequate protection and can make it easier to look into the sun, although not any safer.

Consider using pinhole projectors or other indirect viewing methods to observe the eclipse safely without staring directly up at the harmful rays that can cause solar retinopathy. These methods project an image of the sun onto a surface below you and not in the sky, allowing you to view the passing of the moon in front of the sun without risking eye damage.

Supervise pets during the eclipse to ensure they do not look directly at the sun. Keeping pets indoors helps prevent them from looking up to see what’s happening.

Be cautious of counterfeit solar viewing glasses. Purchase them from reputable sources only to ensure they meet safety standards.

The eclipse will have varying durations depending on your location. Refer to reliable sources for the precise timing in your area.

Your safety is of utmost importance. Let’s make this celestial event a memorable and safe experience for all!

Pixabay photo

County Urges Residents to Take Necessary Safety Measures

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine announced on April 5 that Suffolk County Parks will be open and available for residents to enhance their viewing experience of the upcoming solar eclipse. The rare occurrence is expected to take place on Monday, April 8 beginning at approximately 2:10 p.m. with the maximum eclipse hitting in the range of 3:15-3:30 p.m.

“Suffolk County is home to thousands of acres of pristine parkland throughout the region, providing our residents from western Suffolk to the east end with a unique and scenic opportunity to experience the upcoming solar eclipse,” said Romaine.  “I encourage the public to take advantage of the various amenities our County has to offer in a safe and enjoyable manner.”

The following parks will be open free to residents with the following amenities and viewing options:

  • Smith Point County Park, Shirley: offers unique spot for beachfront eclipse viewing, allowing visitors to watch from either the parking lot or while sitting in the sand along the shore.
  • Gardiner Park, Bayshore: has a large open field that is perfect for an eclipse picnic.
  • Raynor Park, Lake Ronkonkoma: offers open space by the soccer fields.
  • Southaven County Park, Yaphank: access to a large ballfield that is perfect for looking skyward.
  • West Hills County Park, Huntington: has a viewing field by the picnic areas and dog park.
  • Montauk County Park, Montauk: allows residents to experience the eclipse from the Eastern most point of Suffolk County.

The region is outside the path of totality, which means that viewers will see about 90% coverage.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services reminds residents that there is no time during the eclipse when it is safe to look at the sun with the naked eye. Proper eye protection must be worn throughout the eclipse.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, looking at the sun without proper eye protection for even a short time can harm your eyes and risk permanently damaging your retina. Sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not enough to protect your vision if you look at the sun. Homemade filters will not protect your eyes.

To safely watch the eclipse, residents are advised to wear eclipse glasses with certified solar filters or hand-held solar viewers made by a reputable company.

In addition, do not use solar eclipse glasses to look through cameras, binoculars or telescopes – these devices concentrate the sun’s rays and damage the solar filter, allowing the sun’s rays to damage the retina.

For a listing of reputable companies and guidance on using eclipse glasses, visit the American Astronomical Society website: https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/viewers-filters.

The cover of the first issue of The Village Times in 1976 by Pat Windrow

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

On Monday. April 8th, there will be two miracles: the eclipse of the sun in North America and the 48th birthday of The Village Times, the flagship paper of TBR News Media. While not in the same category, one being macro and the other micro, they are both remarkable in their own way. 

If someone had told me I would be sitting here, writing this column on my computer 48 years after we had sent that first issue to bed, I would have been both stunned and yet not surprised. When we started, I never thought we would fail. Such is the necessary optimism of the entrepreneur. By the same token, where have all those years gone? They can be recaptured in 2,496 issues since so far; we never missed a week.

As for the total solar eclipse, this is the second time in seven years that the moon’s pathway will come between us and the sun, totally blocking out the light on the Earth beneath for as much as four minutes, depending on location. It will take 70 to 80 minutes for the eclipse to become total and the same amount of the time for the moon then to recede from the face of the sun. The route of darkness will begin on the west coast of Mexico and move northeast diagonally to exit off the east coast of Canada.

One way for us to think about all those intervening years since 1976 is by remembering how old our children were and what they were doing then. My sons recall our having a table at the July 4th Bicentennial celebration sponsored by the Three Village Historical Society at which we gave out copies of the three-month old newspaper. It was a great setting at which to introduce ourselves, and we produced a special section for the event. My sons were 10, 8 and almost 7 at the time, and I’m sure I had them moving through the crowd offering newspapers.

My husband, who was an accomplished photographer, had taken the pictures of costumed patriots for the supplement, so the occasion was, for us, a family affair in addition to an historic one.

You might ask how the moon, which is 400 times smaller than the sun, could obscure that solar surface. The answer is that the moon is about 400 times closer to us, and so when the moon is in the right spot, they seem the same size. And when the Earth gets between the moon and the sun, which happens a couple of times a year, we have a lunar eclipse, an occurrence less spectacular than a solar eclipse.

You might also ask how a newspaper started by a handful of housewives and 10 minor investors could possibly compete with established weeklies that had deep-pocketed owners and long histories of publishing. That, truly, was something of a miracle. 

Our editorial staff was made up of smart mothers who felt captive in their kitchens and were looking for some sort of additional role in the community. They were willing to accept $5 for an assignment that they would then load their children into the station wagon and go cover, writing up the article after their children were asleep in the evening or their husbands came home to help with the family duties. 

And that was after we were able to pay them the fee. Now they were “professionals.” For the first couple of years, we couldn’t pay them anything. Without too much hubris, I want to salute their intelligence and dedication to starting something we felt was of value and would serve our community and ultimately our democracy. 

A prominent message of the Bicentennial was the need for accurate information in order for people to govern wisely themselves. That is why the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and the national treasury partially subsidizes newspapers with discounted postage rates to this day.

We at TBR News Media continue to consider it a privilege to serve you by casting light on current issues. 

By Alex Petroski

Inquiring minds of all ages arrived at the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson Aug. 21 to witness an extremely rare total solar eclipse  — or Totality 2017 as some are calling it — the likes of which hadn’t happened in North America since the 1970s, or been visible from coast to coast in almost a century. They were greeted not only with the breathtaking once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, but with another: Hundreds of observers turned citizen journalists helping to accumulate scientific data to be used by researchers across the country, most of whom were barely old enough to ride in the front seat of a car, let alone drive one.

“I’ve heard a lot about it so it’s kind of incredible to be able to look and see it,” said Bella Fantauzzi, an 11-year-old from East Islip who made the trip to Port Jeff’s haven for youngsters interested in science on the historic day with her family. “I don’t know how to describe it. Something like this happens, this event, this widespread — my mom said I’m going to be in my 50s when I see [a countrywide eclipse] this happen again, so that’s incredible.”

The event attracted about 200 guests during the course of the day. Attendees were given eclipse glasses until the supply ran out, though anyone interested in observing the happening was welcome to share with other onlookers. Around the grounds of Harborfront Park outside of the Explorium, representatives from the facility explained the science behind the eclipse and instructed kids on how to assist in the collection of data. The young scientists charted the temperature, percentage of the sky covered by clouds, the color of the sky and the visibility of the sun every five minutes beginning at 2 p.m. until the conclusion of the event. That data was being accumulated for NASA.

Attendees also observed work being done by Neil Heft, the president of the Radio Central Amateur Radio Club, who in accordance with a group called EclipseMob, accumulated radio wave data using cellphones and tablets which were then transmitted to researchers in Colorado as part of a nationwide crowdsourcing data collection effort.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for young people to actually be involved in the process of making science, because I think in this climate in this day and age there’s a lot of questions about science, but here they’re witnessing something actually happening,” Angeline Judex, the executive director of the Explorium, said during the event. “We did not expect such a great turnout. It’s really a testament to how much people are interested in what’s going on around them in the environment.”

Heft said he’s not sure how the data might be applied by scientists going forward, but that’s not a unique situation for researchers to be in.

“The last time we had an opportunity to do a test like this was 1925,” he said, adding this event was a golden opportunity because the researchers weren’t as disciplined at the time regarding organization of the data as they should have been back then, in addition to swaths of new technology available now. “I can’t tell you how they’re going to use [the data], your kids will probably know and, if not them, their kids will probably know.”

Terri Randall, a board member at the Explorium and a science teacher, summed up what she hoped attendees, especially kids, would take from participating in the rare event.

“Everybody can be a scientist,” she said. “It’s not isolated to people in museums or in laboratories. So when you have an event like this you have an opportunity to really bring people together to explore, to explain, to learn, to investigate, to have their hands on true science.”

The event achieved its purpose for at least one of the young attendees.

“I’m going to learn about this,” Bella said of the eclipse. “I know I’m going to study it and research it, but I know I’m going to witness it today, so I’m pretty sure when I learn more about it, it will mean a whole lot more later on, but right now I’m kind of just excited to see it.”

A boy wears protective glasses during a partial solar eclipse in 2014. Photo from nasa.gov

By Jill Webb

It won’t be an average Monday, Aug. 21, this year as the moon will completely block the sun for two-and-a-half minutes.

The day marks the first total solar eclipse to happen in North America since 1979, and it’s the first one to stretch from coast to coast in 99 years. In a total solar eclipse the disk of the moon seems to entirely cover the disk of the sun. This will happen Monday on a path about 70 miles wide.

A solar eclipse. Stock photo

Unfortunately, Long Island isn’t on the eclipse’s path of totality, but you still will be able to see a partial eclipse. New York will have about 71 percent of the sun covered during the eclipse. At 1:24 p.m. the eclipse begins on Long Island, and will last till 4:01 p.m. The peak eclipse time is 2:46 p.m.

“I think it’s wonderful for families to experience this with their children,” NASA expert Laurie Cantillo said. “It could be an experience like this that will get a child to stop looking at a phone or tablet and look up to the sky and perhaps motivate them to want to learn more.”

Fredrick Walters, an astronomy professor at Stony Brook University, has put together a list of ways to maximize your viewing experience of the eclipse. Walters said to focus on looking at the stars emerging during the daytime, the shadow bands that will appear across the land and the changing colors as the light fades.

Most importantly, you need to have the proper viewing tool: eclipse glasses. Regular sunglasses won’t cut it, and it’s very dangerous to directly expose your eyes to the sun.

“We’ve all been taught ever since we were kids don’t ever look directly at the sun and that advice applies,” Cantillo said. “The only time it’s safe to remove eclipse glasses is if you’re in the path of totality, during those couple minutes of totality.”

Unprotected viewing may not cause immediate pain, but Walters said he has heard of cases of people waking up the next morning with blurry vision or blindness. Some people can recover in months to years, but it’s not worth the risk.

North Shore solar eclipse events

Middle Country Public Library

2017 Solar Eclipse: Celestial Event of the Century

At its Centereach building, the library will be hosting a solar eclipse viewing between 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. Along with the viewing, activities and eclipse glasses will be provided for all ages. Register for the event by calling 631-585-9393.

Huntington Public Library

Astronomy Crafts

From noon to 2:00 p.m. Huntington Public Library will be offering an astronomy craft session at its main building as well as the Huntington Station branch. One of the space-themed crafts is an eclipse on a stick. There will also be a viewing event in the afternoon at both buildings where you will receive a free pair of eclipse glasses; no registration is required. For more information, visit www.thehuntingtonlibrary.org.

Long Island Science Center

Solar Eclipse Event

From 1 to 4 p.m. the Long Island Science Center will be hosting solar activities, live streaming and more. Planetarium presentations will happen at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Admission is $10 and free for children 2 and under. For more information, visit www.lisciencecenter.org.

North Shore Public Library

Catch the Eclipse!

At 1:30 p.m. Tom Madigan of Suffolk County Community College, who is a part of Astronomy for Change, will give a brief presentation on solar eclipses before leading the event outside to view the solar eclipse. Eclipse glasses will be provided. Register for the event by calling 631-929-4488.

South Huntington Public Library

See the Solar Eclipse

Bring some snacks and a blanket to lay out on the lawn behind the library from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. to witness the eclipse. The library will provide glasses (four per family) while supplies last. Inside, the eclipse will be live streamed from NASA in the library’s theater. Visit www.shpl.info for more information.

Maritime Explorium

Totality 2017 Solar Eclipse

Become a citizen scientist at the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson by attending a viewing from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and helping to crowd source data for researchers at NASA and EclipseMob. Eclipse glasses will be available while supplies last; no registration required. For more information, visit www.maritimeexplorium.org.

The professor said that these special glasses are basically pieces of Mylar foil shielding your eyes. The glasses should be from proper sources that are certified by testing organizations.

“If you have a pair of eclipse glasses and want to test them, put them on and look —not at the sun — but just look at bright lights and things.” Walters said. “If you can see anything, throw them away. You shouldn’t be able to see [anything] except the sun.”

If you can’t get a pair of eclipse glasses in time, you can DIY them by putting a small round hole in an index card and project the image of the sun onto a flat surface.

“One thing you will notice if you don’t look at the sun through your glasses is if you look at the shadows on the ground, you’ll see the shadows are crescent-shaped,” Walters said.

Leaves in the trees could act as projection tools too, casting multiple tiny crescent-shaped shadows on the ground.

During the partial phase, according to Walters, you won’t notice anything besides the sun getting dimmer.

“Unless, you look at the sun through your eclipse glasses, and you can see the sun is no longer circular — there’s a chunk taken out of it,” Walters said. “But, nothing much changes until you have the total phase of the eclipse because the sun just fades.”

Viewers along the path of totality will have a different viewing experience than Long Islanders.

“Inside the path of totality is completely different, it will be night for two and a half minutes.,” Walters said. “The sun gets completely blocked out, the corona of the sun is about as bright as the full moon, that will provide illumination.”

Walters also pointed out that in the path of totality, regular colors might appear different. Where sunrises and sunsets usually appear to have reddish tints, during the eclipse the tone will have a blue tinge. Another thing to notice is temperature; during the peak eclipse things will get colder.

Eclipses have provided researchers with data to uncover scientific discoveries. This time, the scientists are letting the public partake in their findings.

“One of the things that is being planned for next Monday is the National Solar Observatory and the National Science Foundation have handed out a number of telescopes [and] cameras to people along the eclipse line,” Walters said. “The idea is to have them take pictures and movies and stitch it all together to a 90-minute-long movie of how the sun’s corona is changing. This has never been done.”

If you miss this eclipse, don’t fret because another one is coming April 8, 2024, that will run from Texas through Maine — and upstate New York will be in the path of totality.

“It’s almost a mystical experience — you really have to experience this,” Walters said. “It’s good scientifically, but it’s really a great thing to observe on a human level.”

News 12 meteorologist Rich Hoffman said in an email that the weather forecast for Aug. 21 is good, even though things could change between press time and the eclipse. Hoffman said mostly sunny skies are expected for the day with temperature highs near 84.