Watching the June 10 Partial Eclipse of the Sun from Bedford

A partially eclipsed sun on the horizon, rather like the one coming up on June 10th over Bedford, as seen from Amarillo, Texas, on May 20, 2012 — Click to view a larger image

 

The sun is going to act weird early on Thursday morning June 10. For the entire Northeast, the sun will rise not as a round ball but as an eerie, misshapen, dazzling crescent partly blocked by the moon. For Bedford, the sun will rise at 5:08 a.m. and will remain partially eclipsed for more than an hour after that.

You may have seen this upcoming event billed as an “annular” eclipse (in which the sun becomes a thin, bright ring). But that’s true only for northern Ontario and into the Arctic. Seen from our side of the world, the moon will cross the sun off-center.

The process will already be well underway at sunrise, with the sun appearing deeply indented from the upper right. The dent will enlarge and the crescent will thin until 5:33 a.m., Greater Boston’s time of maximum partial eclipse. By then the dent will have moved to the sun’s upper left and will extend a good four-fifths of the way across the sun’s face.

The last trace of the moon’s silhouette won’t slide off the sun’s edge until nearly an hour later, at 6:32.

HOW AND WHERE TO WATCH

To catch this event, you’ve got three considerations for making your plans:

1)  Hope for a clear sky low in the east-northeast.

2)  The sun will be very low there. The time of “sunrise” refers to the sun rising over an ideal flat horizon like the ocean – no trees, buildings, or hills in the way. Even at the time of maximum eclipse 25 minutes after sunrise, the sun will be only 3.3 degrees above horizontal. That’s only about the width of two fingers at arm’s length! Use that measure as a guideline for scouting local viewing sites in advance.

I did some scouting myself. The sun will be 58 degrees east of true north as it rises and 62 degrees east of north at deepest eclipse. That yields a fine spot on the open stretch of Virginia Road overlooking Hanscom Field at the Concord/Lincoln town line. Nearly as good is the southwest corner of the Little Meadow Conservation Area on the trail around the meadow (enter between 265 and 277 Davis Road). Here there’s no chain-link fence in the view, unlike at Hanscom, and by the time of maximum eclipse, you can position the sun just over the historic Davis Farmhouse between trees, if you’re equipped for photographing a low sun over the landscape. Think a long zoom lens and a tripod.

3)  Don’t endanger your eyes! Even though the Sun will be dimmed somewhat by its low altitude, it’s always a bad idea to stare at the Sun for longer than brief moments. If you have a pair of “eclipse glasses” from a past event or an amateur astronomer’s safe solar filter, now’s the time to dig it out. Don’t use filter materials not specifically made for sun viewing; they may let retina-burning amounts of infrared or ultraviolet light through even if the visible light is comfortably dimmed.

The sun will be too low for pinhole projection to work. But you can project a magnified image of the sun onto a piece of paper a foot or two behind tripod-mounted binoculars or a small telescope. You can’t damage your eyes watching an image on paper. Just don’t look through the telescope or binoculars at the sun without a safe solar filter firmly attached over the front!

We’re going to make an early-morning adventure of it.

THE ECLIPSE NEXT TIME

You say you want a total solar eclipse? Stop whining; astronomy teaches patience and appreciating what you’ve got.

Nevertheless, a total eclipse of the sun is indeed coming to New England in less than three years. On April 8, 2024, the moon’s dark shadow will sweep along a path from Mexico and Texas northeast across northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Texas has better clear-sky prospects, but northern New England will be less than a day’s drive.

Alan MacRobert, a Bedford skygazer since 1988, is semi-retired as a senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, published in Cambridge.


Invest in The Bedford Citizen for informative, relevant, and local news. Donate now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.