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October 23 is eclipse day! Watch online here

eclipse-solar-partial

Tonight is Oct 24, 2014

Moon Phase Courtesy U.S. Naval Observatory

UPDATE OCTOBER 23 AT 7 P.M. CDT (MIDNIGHT UTC): The eclipse has now ended. Thanks for a great one, everybody!

Leslie C. Peltier, author of the celebrated 1965 book Starlight Nights, described watching a solar eclipse through a telescope:

I shifted the telescope ever so slightly toward the western edge of the sun – then, a moment later, I was staring spellbound, as the moon, right on time, took its first little nibble out of the red-hot cookie of the sun.

People in North America can relive Peltier’s experience by watching the new moon taking a bite out of the sun’s disk during the afternoon hours on October 23, 2014. Remember, it’s of the utmost importance to use proper eye protection when watching the partial eclipse of the sun, with or without an optical aid, so that you don’t risk serious eye injury or blindness. Click on the links below to find out how to watch the solar eclipse safely and to know when this eclipse is happening in your sky.

How can I safely watch a partial solar eclipse?

October 23 eclipse times for North American Time Zones

Eclipse calculators give eclipse times for your sky

What causes a solar eclipse?

October 23, 2014 solar eclipse via shadowsandsubstance.com

October 23, 2014 solar eclipse via shadowsandsubstance.com

The partial solar eclipse can be viewed as far north as the Arctic and as far south as Mexico. It can be seen as far east as the American East Coast and as far west as the American West Coast, and much of the Pacific Ocean to the north of Hawaii. Image credit: NASA Web Site Page

The partial solar eclipse can be viewed as far north as the Arctic and as far south as Mexico. It can be seen as far east as the American East Coast and as far west as the American West Coast, and much of the Pacific Ocean to the north of Hawaii. The numbers from 0.20, 0.40, 0.60 and 0.80 represent the magnitude of the eclipse – the fraction of the solar diameter that is covered over by the moon. Image credit: NASA Web Site Page

Eclipse glasses enable you to safely watch a solar eclipse.

Eclipse glasses enable you to safely watch a solar eclipse. We offer eclipse glasses at the EarthSky store.

How can I safely watch a partial solar eclipse?

Unless you’re quite practiced at using a telescope and have a proper filter, don’t even try watching the partial solar eclipse through the telescope. Your best bet is to locate an astronomy club or an observatory near you that might be hosting a public viewing of this natural spectacle. Find an astronomy club here.

You don’t need a telescope or an optical aid to view this eclipse, but you do need proper eye protection. Safely and inexpensively watch this partial eclipse with eclipse glasses, or make a simple pinhole projector to indirectly view the solar eclipse, as explained here. You can also turn the telescope or binoculars into a pinhole camera, to indirectly and safely view any solar eclipse.

As shown in the photo below, trees serve as natural pinhole projectors, casting leaf shadows and images of the eclipse galore. When you see the scene for yourself, you may want to sing along with the Beatles:

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes, they call me on and on across the universe.

Read more: How to watch a partial solar eclipse safely

Trees serve as natural pinhole projectors, casting images galore of the partial solar eclipse. Image credit: torbakhopper

Trees serve as natural pinhole projectors, casting images galore of the partial solar eclipse. Image credit: torbakhopper

Animation showing the moon's penumbral shadow sweeping from west to east across the Earth's surface on October 23, 2014.

Animation showing the moon’s penumbral shadow sweeping from west to east across the Earth’s surface on October 23, 2014.

Eclipse times for North American time zones

We list the eclipse times for certain localities at North American time zones in local time. However, the eclipse times will vary somewhat even within the same time zone. An expanded list of local eclipse times are available for US cities or Canadian and Mexican cities. All times are in local time, so no conversion is necessary!

Eastern Daylight Time

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Solar eclipse begins: 17:51 (5:51 p.m.) EDT
Greatest Eclipse: 18:08 (6:08 p.m.) EDT
Sunset before end of eclipse
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 10%

Central Daylight Time

St. Louis, Missouri
Solar eclipse begins: 16:41 (4:41 p.m.) CDT
Greatest eclipse: 17:47 (5:47 p.m.) CDT
Sunset before end of eclipse
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 39%

Mountain Daylight Time

Denver, Colorado
Solar eclipse begins: 15:18 (3:18 p.m.) MDT
Greatest eclipse: 16:35 (4:35 p.m.) MDT
Solar eclipse ends: 17:44 (5:44 p.m.) MDT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 45%

Pacific Daylight Time

San Francisco, California
Solar eclipse begins: 13:52 (1:52 p.m.) PDT
Greatest eclipse: 15:15 (3:15 p.m.) PDT
Solar eclipse ends: 16:32 (4:32 p.m.) PDT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 39%

Alaska Daylight Time

Anchorage, Alaska
Solar eclipse begins: 11:55 a.m. AKDT
Greatest eclipse: 13:11 (1:11 p.m.) AKDT
Solar eclipse ends: 14:28 (2:28 p.m.) AKDT
Maximum obscuration of solar disk: 55%

Eclipse calculators gives eclipse times for your sky

We present two eclipse calculators, enabling you to find out eclipse times in your sky. Timeanddate.com gives the eclipse times in your local time, so no conversion is necessary. The US Naval observatory lists the eclipse times in Universal Time, so you must convert Universal Time to your local clock time. Subtract 4 hours for EDT, 5 hours for CDT, 6 hours for MDT and 7 hours for PDT.

Eclipse calculator courtesy of timeanddate.com

Eclipse computer courtesy of the US Naval Observatory

How do I convert Universal Time into my time?

When the new moon very closely aligns with one of its nodes, the moon's dark umbral shadow falls on Earth, presenting a total eclipse of the sun. However, the alignment is too inexact for the moon's umbral shadow to fall on Earth on October 23, so only the penumbral shadow hits Earth, to feature a partial lunar eclipse. Image credit: Wikipedia

When the new moon very closely aligns with one of its nodes, the moon’s dark umbral shadow falls on Earth, presenting a total eclipse of the sun. However, the alignment is too inexact for the moon’s umbral shadow to fall on Earth on October 23, so only the penumbral shadow hits Earth, to feature a partial lunar eclipse. Image credit: Wikipedia

Animation showing the moon's penumbral shadow sweeping from west to east across the Earth's surface on October 23, 2014.

Animation showing the moon’s penumbral shadow sweeping from west to east across the Earth’s surface on October 23, 2014.

What causes a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens whenever the new moon passes in front of the sun, and the moon’s shadow falls on our planet. A solar eclipse is only possible at new moon because that’s the only time whereby the moon to go in front of the sun, as seen from Earth. Most of the time, however, the new moon either swings north or south of the solar disk, so no eclipse of the sun takes place.

The plane of the moon’s orbit around Earth is inclined at 5o to the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. For half the month, the moon orbits Earth to the north of the ecliptic (Earth’s orbital plane); and for the other half of the month, the moon orbits Earth to the south of the ecliptic (Earth’s orbital plane). Twice a month, however, the moon crosses the Earth’s orbital plane at points called nodes. If the moon is traveling from north to south, it’s called a descending node, and when it’s going from south to north, it’s called an ascending node.

When a new moon happens while the moon is appreciably close to one of its nodes, a solar eclipse is not only possible – but inevitable. It’s far from a perfect alignment this time around, though, as the moon reaches its ascending node about 21 hours before the moon turns new. Thereby, the moon’s dark umbral shadow misses Earth completely, falling some 675 kilometers (420) miles above the Earth’s surface. Although no total solar eclipse can be seen from Earth, the new moon happens close enough to its ascending node for the moon’s penumbral shadow to fall on Earth and for a partial solar eclipse to take place at northerly latitudes.

Bottom line: A partial solar eclipse is visible to those in North America on October 23, 2014. You must use proper eye protection to view the partial eclipse of the sun, with or without an optical aid, so that you don’t risk serious eye injury or blindness. This post offers tips on how to watch the solar eclipse safely and how to know when this eclipse is happening in your sky.