This Thursday afternoon, most of North America will be treated to a partial solar eclipse. If the weather holds, the most dramatic presentation of the eclipse can be seen near Prince of Wales Island in Canada’s Nunavut territory, where 81 percent of the sun will be obscured. For the rest of the continent, regions in the Northwest will have the longest and best views of the eclipse. But over on the east coast, the sunset will interrupt the spectacle.
As you probably remember from science class, solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on part of the Earth’s surface. In this case, the Moon will only cover part of the sun, making it a partial solar eclipse. The next total solar eclipse will occur on March 20, 2015.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where the eclipse will be visible, remember not to look at it directly. Even though the eclipse will cover a good portion of the sun (between 40 and 60 percent in most parts of the United States) and will happen just before or during sunset in many areas, it’s still the sun. Staring at it directly or even through unfiltered binoculars, telescopes, or viewfinders could be harmful to your eyesight. Using filters or pinhole projectors are good alternatives to, well, going blind.
To find out if you’ll be able to get a good view of the eclipse, take a look at these tables curated by NASA, one for Canada and Mexico, and one for the United States. If your locale isn’t mentioned on the map, you can use this tool to look it up instead. You can also use it to look up any eclipse that happened in your location between 1499 BCE and 3000 CE.