Astronomer: A 99.9% solar eclipse is completely different than a total eclipse

“There really is no such thing as an ‘almost’ eclipse”

Dr. Glenn Schneider knows a few things about total solar eclipses. He’s been chasing them since he was 14 years old and he’s witnessed 33, an accomplishment that only two other people in history can put on their resume.

Schneider is an Astronomer at the Steward observatory in Arizona and he has a clear message for those that don’t have plans to drive into the path of totality.

“There really is no such thing as an almost eclipse,” says Schneider.  “A partial solar eclipse, even if it’s 99.9% covered, is a completely different phenomena from what you would see if you’re in that zone of totality.”

Schneider urges those that have an opportunity to see the eclipse in totality to take it.

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Aug. 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

“So if you’re living 5 miles away and you sort of say well, I’ll see a 99.9% eclipse it’s almost the same thing.  It isn’t!”

Schneider explains that if even a small amount of the solar photosphere is still remaining, it absolutely just kills the contrast.

“It’s the contrast of how bright that surface brightness of the sun is relative to the corona.  And even just a littlest bit is just overwhelming glare.”

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“You’ve got to be in the moons umbral shadow with the moon fully covering the sun.”

Schneider also advises not to fumble with a camera during the approximate 2 minute window to see the eclipse.

“There is no photograph, no video, no digital capture of a total solar eclipse that is like seeing it imaged on your own retinas.” Schneider says. “If it’s the first total eclipse you’re seeing, I would say don’t bother taking pictures.”

Schneider says that it’s real easy to pick up a cell phone and take a snapshot and that may be fine if you’ve got two minutes are so, depending on where you are.

“But don’t get involved in a photographic or video program for your first total solar eclipse.”  he says he made that mistake as a teen. “I prepared a bunch of cameras and such when I was 14 years old for this first eclipse. And when totality happened I was frozen like the proverbial deer in the headlights and lost months of practice of exactly what I was going to to do.”

Solar Eclipse

“I think the minds eye is much more important to capture.”

August 21, Schneider will be staked out in Madras, Oregon to watch a celestial phenomenon that has not been duplicated in the United States since 1918.

The total solar eclipse will pass over 14 states, first touching the United states on the Pacific coast of Oregon and slowly stretching to the Atlantic coast of South Carolina.

The path of totality will be approximately 60-70 miles wide.

Dr.Schneider is an Astronomer at Steward Observatory, and the Project Instrument Scientist for HST’s Near Infra-red Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. His research interests are centered on the formation, evolution, and characterization of extrasolar planetary systems and have focused on the direct detection of sub-stellar and planetary mass companions to young and near-by stars and the circumstellar environments from which such systems arise and interact.

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has a decade and a half of experience working in a fast-paced newsroom. He’s worked as a journalist, weather chief, and news director.

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