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Tuesday, October 12, 2004



Solar eclipse will
take ‘big bite
out of the sun’




Solar eclipse viewing

>> Never view the sun directly with the naked eye or with any optical device, such as binoculars or a telescope. Sunglasses are not a safe filter for eclipse viewing.

>> One safe method for eclipse viewing is called a pinhole box. For information on how to create a pinhole box and other safe solar viewing methods, see: www.Mreclipse.com/Totality/TotalityCh11.html


Ancient Hawaiians believed that a solar eclipse was an omen of the imminent death of a chief or a harbinger of an upcoming war, according to some historians' accounts.

In the hour before sunset tomorrow, a partial eclipse of the sun will be visible to anyone facing west in Hawaii. The eclipse is expected to begin about 5:14 and will be visible until sunset at about 6:09, according to Carolyn Kaichi, planetarium manager at the Bishop Museum.

"It will look like something took a big bite out of the sun," said Kaichi. "And at its conclusion, half of the sun will be gone."

Kaichi and other astronomers say that there is an eclipse about every six months but the timing and conditions do not always make it visible everywhere. The last partial eclipse of the sun visible in Hawaii was June 10, 2001. That eclipse was smaller, obscuring only one-quarter of the sun.

Kaichi explained that a solar eclipse occurs only under exact conditions in which the moon, in its orbit around the earth, comes into a specific alignment in front of our sight line of the sun to obscure all or part of it.

Kaichi and others warned that looking at a solar eclipse, even with any brand of sunglasses, would cause damage to the delicate retina of the eye. Staring at the sun with binoculars or a telescope would be worse than with sunglasses because it is similar to using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on a small tinder.

Kaichi said some telescopes have a specially adapted "safe solar filter" that are safe for viewing. The museum also sells $2 "sun peeps" so that a solar eclipse can be safely monitored.

Another way to observe a partial solar eclipse is with the "pinhole method", which allows you to view a projected image of the sun. (One Web site that describes this method is: www.mreclipse.com/Totality/TotalityCh11.html.)

Kaichi said that any west-facing view in Hawaii such as Waikiki, Magic Island or Tantalus Park should be good for viewing the eclipse.

Hawaii stargazers will likely miss the opportunity to watch a lunar eclipse on Oct. 27. Lunar eclipses are best viewed in total darkness, so this eclipse will be difficult to detect in Hawaii, since the moon will rise while it's still light. The eclipse will be over by about 7:15 p.m., when it would normally be dark enough to be visible.

Kaichi said the lunar eclipse, which unlike the solar one does not require special eye gear, will look like a "slight dimming of the surface of the moon."

According to some historians, there were ancient Hawaiian priests who believed that a lunar eclipse was a warning from Pele, the volcano goddess, of an approaching earthquake or volcanic eruption. Pele's sacred name, Hinaikeahi, roughly translates to "moon in flames," which is believed to be derived from the reddish hue of a lunar eclipse.

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