Unless you have been living under a rock or think everything you see on TV or online is FAKE NEWS then you are aware of the solar eclipse happening on Monday. A number of people have been asking questions so here is a quick primer on what the deal is.
What? This eclipse has been dubbed The Great American Eclipse as it will traverse the length of the country from west to east (Oregon to South Carolina) with all parts of the lower 48 being able to see at least a partial eclipse.
When? In Houston the first sliver of the moon will begin covering the sun at 11:46 AM. It will continue moving across the sun and reach maximum coverage at 1:16 PM. After that the moon will begin retreating and the last bit of it will move away from the sun at 2:45 PM.
How much of the sun will be covered? In Houston about 70% of the sun will be eclipsed at 1:16 PM.
Will it get dark? There will be some dimming of light maybe to the levels we see in early evening. Even with only 30% of the sun’s light coming through at the maximum eclipse it will still be enough to keep things fairly bright. It will be nothing like what is experienced in the areas getting a total eclipse. Those places will be seeing a brief period of darkness when the sun is completely covered.
Will the weather change? This is the question I have received the most (obviously). In Houston any changes to the weather will be largely imperceptible. Again, not enough of the sun is being covered here to plunge our area into darkness. At most our daily rise in temperatures may be slightly delayed. In areas getting a total eclipse the temperature will drop by a few degrees, possibly up to 10 degrees in the least humid locations and there may be some small gusts of wind caused by the sudden temperature change. The effect on thunderstorm activity will be an interesting thing to watch in those areas. Typical summer thunderstorms rely on heating from the sun to form, but darkness will likely not last long enough to totally kill any storms in the path of the eclipse. On the other hand the possibility exists that thunderstorms could pop up on the edge of totality. The darkness will cause air to cool and sink. When this sinking air reaches the ground it will spread out and if it is dense enough it can cause warmer air on the edges of totality to rise creating thunderstorms. However these smaller effects will likely be dependent on other weather conditions existing in an area at the time of totality. The data collected from this event should be spectacular as an eclipse has never traversed an area covered by so many data observation points.
How can I see it? You are probably tired of hearing people tell you not to look directly at the sun. Yes it is bad for your eyes. But honestly even at maximum coverage here the sun will still be bright enough that it will be difficult to see the moon through your squinting even with sunglasses. Unless you are crafty and want to make one of those pinhole projectors, getting a pair of eclipse glasses is your best bet to see it. It is probably too late to get them in time if you order online, but a number of stores – including Kroger, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes – are selling them if you want to pick up a pair.
Will the weather cooperate? Right now it looks like viewing conditions should be fair. There may be some clouds but the breaks between them should be big enough to get some good views. Keep in mind though that it will be very hot. If you plan on being outside for an extended period to watch please be smart about it and bring lots of water.
When is the next eclipse? The next eclipse is relatively soon considering that the last one in the U.S. was almost 30 years ago. The next solar eclipse visible in the U.S. will be on April 8, 2024 – only 7 years away. In that eclipse the path of totality will pass straight through Texas and include San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. Houston will be just on the edge but will still see about 95% coverage of the sun in that eclipse.
If you have any other questions please feel free to comment here or tweet to me @stephenuzick.