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USM Astronomy professor talks safety on upcoming Solar Eclipse

HATTIESBURG, MS. - A natural phenomenon is heading here to the continental United States next Monday.

The last time the continental U.S experienced a solar eclipse was back in 1979 says University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Astronomy and Physics Professor Dr. Christopher Sirola.

According to Dr. Sirola Astronomers can scientifically predict every solar eclipse for the next 100 years. Every year a solar eclipse occurs 1 to 2 times somewhere around the world. Dr. Sirola has been waiting for this eclipse for years.

Hattiesburg can experience the eclipse between 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. He says the best time to watch the solar eclipse is at 1:30 p.m. Spectators can see about 80% of the total eclipse at that time.

“This is when the moon cuts in between the earth and the sun and the moon’s shadow covers up parts of the earth" says Dr. Sirola. However looking straight into the eclipse and its powerful ultra violet rays without any protective eye wear can damage your eyes.

The correct way to put on your protective eye wear is to have you back turned 180 degrees away from the sun, put on the glasses, then turn around and look directly at the eclipse.

"The sunglasses are so dark that you cannot see anything through them, but the sun" he says. "It is not that the sun is giving away more UV rays."

"The problem is if you are using anything else for sunglasses, is that your eyes open up larger because after all your eyes think it is darker and that lets in more UV light."

"If you do not have these proper pair of glasses, you are letting in more UV rays." But even with the protected eye wear Dr. Sirola says to give your eyes a break from time to time.

He says, "Look at it, get your feel of it, then give your eyes a rest just to make sure if you will."

Most solar eclipse sunglasses are sold out locally says Dr. Sirola. If you do get your hands on one, he suggests logging onto NASA's website where they have a list of trusted manufacturers.

Spectators can even use welding masks if they do not have correct eye wear. But there is also a plan-B for spectators who cannot find sunglasses.

A sheet of cardboard. It is an indirect way of looking at the eclipse. Spectators can poke a tiny-push-pin hole through a sheet of cardboard.

"You hold the cardboard up to the sun and the light from the sun will go through the hole and make an image on the other side of the cardboard (on the ground)."

Other than a mild dip in the temperature and a change in view, the eclipse will be out of this world for spectators.

Dr. Sirola says spectators can participate in a scientific study during the three hours of the eclipse. Viewers can take notes on the time and temperature during the eclipse and submit it to the Globe Program for research.

“It really just shows us that there are things like the moon and the sun that exist, they move around and affects our lives" Dr. Sirola says.

According to Dr. Sirola the weather can be a factor in viewing the eclipse, if it is cloudy spectators will not be able to fully experience the eclipse.



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