Merrillville Community Planetarium
Bringing the Universe to the Merrillville Schools and Northwest Indiana

Safely Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Weather permitting, observers in Northwest Indiana will be able to observe a partial solar eclipse during the afternoon of Monday, August 21. At maximum eclipse, almost 90% of the sun’s surface will be covered by the moon as seen from our location. The last significant solar eclipse visible from Northwest Indiana occurred on December 25, 2000, when slightly more than half of the sun was covered by the moon.

As seen from Northwest Indiana, the eclipse will begin at 11:55 a.m. as the moon begins to cover the sun. The eclipse reaches its maximum at 1:21 p.m. when about 88% of the sun will be covered by the moon. The partial eclipse will end at 2:44 p.m.

The sun should never be observed by looking directly at it. Infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the sun — the same rays that warm and tan human skin — can cause permanent damage to the eye. Anyone who wants to observe the eclipse should watch it on-line, attend a professionally sponsored viewing session, construct a pinhole camera for indirect observing, or use filters specifically designed for safe direct observation of the sun.

The solar viewers provided by the planetarium filter 99.999% of the light from the sun. Prior to solar viewing, please examine your viewers to make sure that there are no holes or tears in the viewing material. If you look at an ordinary household lighting fixture through the solar viewers, you should not be able to see any light.

Eclipses are the result of the changing positions of the sun, Earth, and moon. When illuminated by the sun, Earth and the moon cast shadows into space. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth. As the moon orbits Earth, the moon’s shadow sweeps over the surface of Earth.

There are different types of eclipses depending on the exact location of the sun, Earth, and moon. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon appears to completely cover the surface of the sun. The solar eclipse of August 21 is total, but only along a narrow band stretching across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. No part of Indiana will experience a total eclipse on August 21, although the southwest “toe” of the state comes pretty close.

For information on purchasing solar eclipse viewers please contact us.