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Solar Eclipse Sunday – Here's How to View

There are safe ways to view the eclipse, with a do-it-yourself, 'pinhole projector,' but don't risk serious damage to your eyes Sunday by looking directly at the sun

A partial solar eclipse is thought to darken the sun between 5:16 and 7:40 p.m. Sunday, but astronomers are advising you look ver-r-r-r-y carefully.

How carefully?

Start by turning your back to the sun. Really.

"It is very important that everyone tempted by the sight of 84 percent of the sun's area being covered by the Moon take heed of the warnings you will hear for much of the coming week," , and a frequent radio commentator on all things astronomical.

People can watch by making do-it-yourself pinhole projectors. Then, view the eclipse by turning their back to the sun and letting the sun shine through the pinhole onto a piece of paper. From there, the progression of the moon's path can be seen.

While it's not a total eclipse, Sunday's event is still pretty special. The last time an "annular eclipse" took place was 18 years ago.

Optimum viewing time is 6:33 p.m. 

Just don't turn to the nearest observatory: Sonoma's Ferguson Observatory won't be holding a viewing since their view is blocked by the mountains in Sugarloaf State Park.

But, you can obtain special myler viewing supplies on Saturday from the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association for $2.

Further from home, San Francisco Amateur Astronomers are hosting two events. One, a viewing party on the Marina Green, promoting safe viewing, and the other, alluringly called the "Ring of Fire Road Trip to Mt. Shasta," which is in the path of the eclipse, and from which the "full annular" effect can be seen.

Also in San Francisco, the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (55 Music Concourse Dr.) will be setting up some telescopes and other viewing apparatus from 5 p.m. to 7:40 pm in front of the Academy on the Music Concourse side, where the angles should allow participants to see most if not all of the eclipse.

if you're unprepared, or like to leave things to chance Sunday afternoon, you can even look at the shadows cast by leaves on trees. If there are bug holes in the leaves, they pretty much do the same thing as a pinhole projector, writes Gary Baker in the newsletter of the Peninsula Astronomical Society newsletter.

And while you're under that tree, you might notice what a NASA Science's Science News article  says is special about an annular eclipse, described as having "a particular charm of its own." It renders sunbeams into "little rings of light," easily seen in the shadows of a leafy tree.

The NASA article on the partial eclipse quotes NASA's leading eclipse expert, Fred Espenak of the Goddard Space Flight Center, as saying he gives it a '9' on a scale of 1 to 10, In terms of visual spectacles.

For those wondering what places, besides Mt. Shasta, get "the full annular" the Mt. Diablo Astronomical Society posted a link from Bruce Kruse of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. The interactive Google map, made by Xavier M. Jubier, is worth taking a look to see the path of the eclipse.

This is the first of a "triple-play," Chabot points out. After the annular eclipse on Sunday comes a partial lunar eclipse on June 4 between 2 and 4 a.m., followed by an even rarer once-every-120 years, "Transit of Venus," which is Venus traveling between us and the sun. And yes, your astronomer buddies will be out watching.

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