Hawaii awaits
partial eclipse

The moon will block about half
of the sun tomorrow afternoon

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Hawaii will be on the sidelines, but we will still be able to see part of the show as a ring-like eclipse of the sun crosses the Pacific tomorrow.

About half of the face of the sun will be blotted out by the moon in Hawaii during the afternoon.

Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Haleakala National Park on Maui and the Gemini Observatory headquarters in Hilo are planning safe viewing events. The weather service says the forecast is for mostly sunny skies for Honolulu and Haleakala and partly cloudy skies for Hilo.

Unlike the total eclipse of the sun that passed over the Big Island in 1991, the moon will be slightly farther from Earth tomorrow, so it will not appear quite large enough to cover the sun.

Instead, a "ring of fire" will surround the moon's shadow, giving rising to the astronomical term "annular" or ring eclipse.


To see that effect, a viewer will have to be in a boat about 1,800 miles north of Hawaii. Very few pieces of land will be on the line traced by the moon's shadow across the Pacific, including Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Marianas and a part of Mexico about 20 miles south of Puerto Vallarta.

In Hawaii, people will see about 50 percent coverage. That leaves enough sunlight to cause serious eye damage unless caution is taken.

From 1 to 4 p.m. Gemini Observatory at the University of Hawaii at Hilo will have small telescopes for the public on its grounds with appropriate filters.

Gemini spokesman Peter Michaud said people trying the same thing at home without the right filters could permanently damage their eyes.

In Hilo, the eclipse will start at 1:17 p.m. and last to 4:10 p.m. with the maximum coverage of the sun at 2:47 p.m. Since the eclipse moves from west to east, observers in the rest of the state will see it a few minutes earlier.

UH-Hilo astronomy professor Richard Crowe predicts some good viewing of sun spots, if the weather cooperates.

If clouds roll in, Gemini also plans tours of its high-tech control room and presentations on infrared astronomy.

Since the moon won't reveal the sun's gaseous corona, as it would in a total eclipse, there is little scientific interest in the event, he said.

On Maui, Haleakala National Park is organizing a short program providing special viewing glasses for viewers at its summit building at the 10,023-foot level. The most coverage of the sun will be 52 percent at about 2:42 p.m.

The drive to the summit takes about two and a half hours from Kahului, and admission into the park is $10 per vehicle.

In Honolulu, the eclipse starts at 1:04 p.m. and will be at its deepest (52 percent) at 2:42 p.m.

The Bishop Museum will offer "The Eclipse Show" today in anticipation of the eclipse. The show will start at 11:30 a.m. and will look at the science behind solar and lunar eclipses, cite examples of eclipses in history and give a preview of a Dec. 4 total solar eclipse that will occur over Africa.

The museum also will offer eclipse viewing on the front lawn, weather permitting, from 2 to 4 p.m. Volunteers from the Hawaiian Astronomical Society will be on hand with solar filter telescopes to provide viewing of the eclipse.

The museum also will provide a projection of the eclipse on the museum's observatory wall for viewing.

According to Mike Shanahan, planetarium manager, "the coolest way" of viewing the eclipse is by using the society's telescopes, which provide a direct, magnified view of the sun.

Sun peeps, or filters to safely view the eclipse, will be available at the museum's Shop Pacifica for $2.

Star-Bulletin reporters Gary T. Kubota and
Mary Vorsino contributed to this report.

E-mail to City Desk


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