Solar Eclipse: A Comprehensive Guide with 12 Questions and Answers

Get ready as the sky darkens on Monday during a total solar eclipse where the moon will completely block the sun’s rays for a few minutes — an event Hoosiers can only witness with special glasses.

Our sister publication, the Kansas Reflector, has prepared a list of questions and answers tailored for their readers, which we’ve adjusted for our Indiana audience. While Kansas may not experience totality like Indiana, their insights provide valuable context before the upcoming eclipse.

Hold on! Is there really a solar eclipse happening?

Absolutely! On Monday, April 8, 2024, certain parts of Indiana will be cast into complete darkness for a little over four minutes, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. The darkening of the skies will commence around 1:50 p.m., with total darkness enveloping Indianapolis from 3:06 to 3:09 before the light returns at 4:23. Other regions in the state will have a similar timeline with minor variations.

Could you remind me what a solar eclipse is?

As per NASA: “A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, obscuring the Sun entirely. It will cause the sky to darken as if it were dawn or dusk.”

Picture watching a critical TV program when someone walks in front of the screen, diminishing your enjoyment instantaneously.

Think of your TV screen as the sun and the person blocking it as the moon; it’s a similar concept.

Who will have the chance to observe it?

All of Indiana will witness parts of the eclipse, but only select areas will be within the “Path of Totality,” where the moon completely obscures the sun. This region, stretching from Bluffton to Evansville, has lured hundreds of thousands of visitors from other states keen on this rare astronomical event.

How rare is it? While partial solar eclipses occur two or three times annually somewhere globally, and about two total solar eclipses hit every three years, Indiana won’t witness another until 2099.

Any tips for viewing it?

Under no circumstances should you look at the eclipse directly with your naked eyes. Let me reiterate, in italics: Do not look at the eclipse with your naked eyes.

The sun’s usual brightness makes it unbearable to stare at directly. Even during an eclipse, the diminished brightness doesn’t block solar radiation that can lead to severe eye damage, causing permanent retinal scarring. People who do this will have a ghostly image of the sun haunting them for life.

Can I sneak a peek at it?

Please resist the temptation. Listen to Shannon Schmoll, director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University.

“Looking directly at the sun is never safe. It can damage your eyes permanently,” she emphasized during a briefing organized by SciLine last week. “To observe the eclipse safely, you must use specialized eclipse glasses or viewers.”

Where can I procure these solar viewers?

The American Astronomical Society hosts a list of trusted manufacturers and retailers. Avoid searching for “cheap eclipse glasses” on popular online platforms. Your eyes deserve better protection. Some public libraries are distributing these glasses, and the Department of Natural Resources offers glasses and t-shirts for sale.

Is using a camera a viable alternative?

No. Directly photographing the eclipse without protective filters can render your sophisticated digital camera inoperable. A specialized lens filter is essential for capturing the event with a standalone or smartphone camera.

Alright, I’ll gear up with glasses and filters aplenty. Can I bid farewell to the world now?

Nope. Eclipses have occurred for millennia, and the world persists, for better or worse.

Have people been reacting sensibly and calmly online?

Hilariously, no!

An intriguing article from tech platform Gizmodo compiles some of the outlandish internet claims. These include prophecies that the eclipse will trigger power outages and disrupt cell service, destabilize the hypothetical “simulation” many believe we’re in, and various apocalyptic theories from religious texts.

Will animals exhibit strange behavior?

Review the previously mentioned briefing. In essence, we know that birds and insects quiet down during an eclipse, but they don’t panic or act unusually.

“The eclipse suppresses diurnal activities of day-flying insects and birds, prompting them to roost, but it doesn’t induce typical nocturnal behaviors as seen at dusk,” explained Andrew Farnsworth from the Center for Avian Population Studies at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recommends leaving pets at home if they struggle with leashes, noting that animals generally avoid looking directly at the sun.

How is the state government preparing?

In anticipation, Governor Eric Holcomb has issued an executive disaster order enabling Indiana to request aid through a nationwide compact in case the eclipse strains the state’s emergency response systems. Officials anticipate a “widespread and significant impact” on Indiana’s crucial infrastructure—communication, emergency response, and transportation due to the anticipated crowd, as outlined in the order.

Even alcohol regulators are joining the festivities and can acquire special permits.

If you plan to drive, be ready for potential delays and traffic disturbances. Keep an ample supply of water, food, fuel, chargers, maps, and emergency supplies handy. The Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC) offers additional safety tips for optimal viewing.

And, on a lighter note, First Lady Janet Holcomb has whipped up some ‘Path of Totality’ deviled eggs.

Are there any notable events happening in Indiana?

Plenty! The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been selected as a broadcast site by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), boasting an exciting lineup of activities involving multiple astronauts, IndyCar drivers, NASA officials, and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The historic racetrack will also feature educational programs catering to both tech enthusiasts and families.

The IDDC has compiled an extensive list of other celebrations statewide.

Indiana Capital Chronicle Reporter Leslie Bonilla Muñiz contributed to this story.

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