October 23rd partial solar eclipse

Oct. 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse at maximum eclipse, as seen from Madison, Wisconsin. Illustration courtesty of timeanddate.com.

We lucked out with clear skies in Madison for the total lunar eclipse last week. Hopefully our luck will hold for the partial solar eclipse next week.

Shortly before sunset next Thursday, viewers in western and northern North America will see nearly half of the sun eclipsed by the moon at maximum eclipse. Here in Madison, we’ll see less than half the sun eclipsed, but the eclipse will be greater in the Northwest United States and British Columbia.

In Madison, the timing looks like this:

  • 4:33 p.m. – partial solar eclipse begins
  • 5:41 – maximum eclipse (nearly half the sun eclipsed by the moon)
  • 6:01 – sunset

For eclipse times in other locations, visit timeanddate.com and enter your city.

The partial solar eclipse won’t have quite the ‘wow’ factor that last week’s total lunar eclipse did, but it’s still relatively rare and worth a look — just be sure to do so safely.

Eye safety

Unlike lunar eclipses, which you can enjoy just by looking up, safely viewing a solar eclipse requires protective eye wear, such as eclipse glasses, or an eye-safe viewer like a homemade pinhole viewer. I prefer the eclipse glasses, but you’ll need to get cracking if you want to order some in time for Thursday. These cost $15 for a 5-pack of eclipse glasses at Amazon:

Eclipse Shades by Rainbow Symphony (5 pack):  Amazon – $14.95

These are the eclipse glasses that the University of Wisconsin Space Place bought and resold to the public for the solar eclipse and transit of Venus back in 2012. My daughters and I enjoyed using them — the glasses required less coordination than holding a pinhole viewer, and the Rainbow Symphony eclipse glasses give you a color view (orange on black) instead of black and white.

Where to watch

UW Space Place has announced an eclipse viewing party in Madison at Tenney Park from 4:30 p.m. to sunset next Thursday (weather permitting). Tenney Park should be a good spot for this eclipse, as the sun will be low in the western sky during the eclipse in Madison.

For those of us here in the midwest, you’ll want to find a spot with a good view of the western horizon, unblocked by buildings or trees. For viewers further away in the pacific northwest, the eclipse will be higher in the sky.

More information

Path of August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. From eclipsewise.com.

Our next solar eclipse in North America will be a total eclipse on August 21, 2017 — those in a narrow swath of the United States (shown at right) will enjoy a total eclipse (day turns to night) lasting as long as two and a half minutes.