Some planets and stars should be visible when the sky darkens in mid-afternoon during next month’s solar eclipse, astronomers at the University of South Carolina say.
Those stellar features usually only able to be seen at night will be on display across the Midlands when sunlight is totally obscured for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds during the Aug. 21 event, they say.
“It’s kind of like seeing a movie made by the universe and you’re in a front row seat,” USC professor Varsha Kulkarni said.
Her predictions on what to look for include:
▪ Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter, the planets nearest earth. Venus will be easiest to detect, with Mercury and Mars fainter while Jupiter is brighter but farther away.
▪ Regulus will be the brightest star near the sun, with Sirius farther away. Other unnamed stars also will be seen.
All those features should be available to view without telescopes, but will be sharper with those instruments, USC astronomers said.
“In the direction of the sun, there’ll be some impressive stuff,” Kulkarni said.
But don’t be totally absorbed in the planets and stars, Kulkarni and fellow astronomer Steven Rodney said.
Focus as well on the corona of gases that becomes a white halo around the temporarily dark sun, they said.
“It’ll be about as bright as a full moon,” Kulkarni said.
Scientists at USC and across the nation will be studying the eclipse to assist in determining how sunspots and other solar disturbances affect life on earth.
Storms on the sun and the radiation they emit are “very intrinsically linked” to earth’s climate and interference with communications satellites and space stations, Rodney said.
“But there’s a lot we don’t understand about how the corona works,” he said.
Understanding the sun better also guides research into other stars and galaxies, Kulkarni said.
“Although the sun is the standard by which we measure others, there’s still a lot of mystery and questions about it,” she said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
ABOUT THE ECLIPSE
When is it? Aug. 21
When will the total eclipse start? 2:41 p.m. in the Midlands
How long will the total eclipse last? It varies, even across the Midlands. In downtown Columbia, the total eclipse is expected to last about 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
Viewing the eclipse at USC
Sites on campus to watch the Aug. 21 eclipse, starting at 12:30 p.m. with protective glasses available free:
▪ Intramural fields at Gadsden and Devine streets near Colonial Life Arena
▪ Foundation Square at Lincoln and Greene streets by Colonial Life Arena
▪ Recreation fields by Strom Thurmond Fitness Center near Assembly and Blossom streets
▪ West side of Horseshoe on Sumter Street in the center of campus
▪ Russell House student union on Greene Street
▪ Outside Melton Memorial Observatory on the east side of the Horseshoe near Pickens and Greene streets
▪ Outside Thomas Cooper Library on Greene Street
▪ Recreation fields by Blatt Physical Education Center at Wheat and Sumter streets
▪ Gibbes Green on east side of Horseshoe
▪ Close-Hipp Building on east side of campus near Capstone
▪ Demonstrations and discussions at McKissick Museum, starting at 1 p.m.
More information about USC’s eclipse events is at sc.edu/eclipse.