It’s More Than Just 146 Seconds of Darkness


There’s more to an eclipse than just the few minutes of darkness at totality. You can observe the moment of first contact when the moon just begins to pass in front of the sun, and the change in shadows as the eclipse proceeds. Shadow bands are an unusual phenomenon that lasts only a few seconds, just before and after totality. These are wavy bands of light and shade that are not always visible.


Just before totality, you may see Bailey’s Beads appear. These lights are created because the moon has mountains and valleys, so its outline is jagged rather than smooth. Just before totality, the moon blocks almost all the sun’s light, but a few rays slip through the valleys and are seen as individual “beads” of light along the edge of the moon.   When only a single bead of light remains, it is called the diamond ring.


Once totality is reached, you can safely remove your eye protection (but only for the period of totality – put them on again as soon as the sun begins to show) and observe things you can’t see with the naked eye at any other time.   You will see a pinkish or magenta ring around the sun. This is the chromosphere, a part of the sun’s atmosphere.   You will also see the sun’s corona, a whitish halo. The temperature of the corona is actually hotter than the surface of the sun, reaching as much as 3,5000,000 degrees Fahrenheit (the surface is a relatively low 10,000 degrees). You may be able to see solar prominences, huge explosions of superheated material that look like flames leaping away from the sun. Sometimes you can see these prominences form a loop and fall back into the sun.


Other events you may notice during the eclipse include a change in the color of the sky, the appearance of winter constellations, a drop in temperature, and unusual animal behavior (for example, birds may roost as the eclipse progresses, and roosters may crow as the eclipse passes).


We have a scorecard you can use to keep track of the phenomena you see during the eclipse. Click HERE to print out a copy.


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