The Solar Eclipse is a Sight to See... Carefully

GAINESVILLe, Fla. (WCJB)- Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow. It only happens a few times a year, and often in remote places. However, this year everyone in the United States will see a solar eclipse. According to James Albury, co-host of the PBS TV series "Stargazers" and Director of the Kika Silva Pia Planetarium at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, the "people directly under the shadow experience a total eclipse and people on the periphery or outside of that shadow have a partial eclipse".

He explains that the best show will be for those people along the path of totality, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. In that narrow path, day will turn into night, except along the horizon which will be lit from the sunlight in the distance.

In North Central Florida, the moon will cover about 90% of the sun with the peak time occuring at 2:47pm. Albury explains that 10% of sunlight is still enough to keep things pretty well lit. While the streetlights won't go on, things will appear dimmer, and a really strange feature will occur if you look at the bright spots of sunlight sneaking underneath a trees shadow. There you'll see tiny crescents during the eclipse. The gaps between tree leaves acting like a pinhole camera.

So how do you set up your own pinhole camera?

First, it's important to remember that the pinhole camera is NOT a camera. It just allows the sun's projection to be cast onto the ground.

You take two pieces of cardboard, poke a hole in one, and position the other about 3 feet underneath the first. There you'll see the sun's projection and get to enjoy the eclipse without fearing eye damage.

And eye damage is a very real concern for this eclipse. Alachua, Marion, and Clay county schools have already taken a number of precautions to keep kids from looking at the sky when they are leaving school on Monday.

Dr. Jessica Cameron, a Optometric Doctor at UF Health, says "usually cell death or cell changes doesn't happen until hours later. An individual might be going to bed and wake up, and their vision is blurry". While some patients recover after a few months, others have permanent and irreversible damage to the center of their vision. Dr. Cameron says that condition is called "central Scotoma".

Sunglasses are not a safe option when viewing the eclipse. Eclipse glasses are one hundred thousand times darker than sunglasses. For those who are worried about whether their solar eclipse glasses may not be authentic and safe, one way to know for sure is by looking into them away from the sun first. If you see any traces of light, those eclipse filters are not sufficient. The only light you should be able to see is the light of the sun itself.

Alachua county libraries are out of solar eclipse glasses, but there are still some opportunities to get them. At the Santa Fe Planetarium, if you have tickets to the "eclipse" show this weekend, you'll receive eclipse glasses. There are a few chain stores around the region that carry them, but Albury says he has heard that many are out of stock.

But this eclipse is just practice for the total eclipse that will block the Florida sunshine in 2045.