Israeli astronomy enthusiasts will turn their (protected) eyes to skies late Friday morning, to view a partial solar eclipse – the last solar eclipse expected to be visible in Israel for the next five years.
The peak of the eclipse in Israel will occur at 11:56 a.m., when the moon will hide about 6 percent of the sun, according to the Israeli Astronomical Association, a Givatayim-based non-profit organization whose goal is to deepen awareness for astronomy among members of the public.
Together with the Israel Space Agency of the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, the association will be hosting six official observation events on Friday under the framework of a joint project called “Looking Up.”
“The truth is that this is such a small eclipse,” said Dr. Igal Pat-El, chairman of the Israeli Astronomical Association, in a lecture posted on YouTube about the eclipse four days ago. “This is the last eclipse that will be in Israel until the year 2020.”
Solar eclipses occur when the moon is just between the sun and the Earth, with a full eclipse happening when the sun, moon and Earth are on almost exactly the same plane, the Israeli Astronomical Association explained. A partial eclipse, on the other hand, occurs when the moon passes above or under the ecliptic plane in a way that does not entirely cover the solar disc.
During Friday’s partial eclipse, the moon will pass north of the ecliptic plane and as a result, the eclipse will only be seen in the northern portion of the globe, the association added.
“Ancient cultures around the world attributed godly traits to the sun and developed myths around it, held ceremonies and even built temples in its honor,” a statement from the Israel Space Agency said. “Therefore, when the sun ‘took off’ for a day, once in a while, such an occurrence was seen as meaningful and even threatening.”
“To this date, an eclipse – full or partial – manages to excite us, though for quite different reasons,” the agency statement continued.
Not only due eclipses cause “something so familiar” – the sun – to suddenly appear quite different, but they also demonstrate the astronomical phenomenon of the moon’s orbit around the sun, and how near to Earth and small the moon is in comparison to the sun, the agency added.
Israel is located only at the southern edge of the eclipse’s visibility range. The eclipse will hit its greatest intensity at 9:45 a.m. coordinated universal time (11:45 a.m. Israel time), and will occur in the Norwegian Sea, about halfway between mainland Iceland and Norway and due north of Denmark’s autonomous Faroe Islands, according to data from NASA‘s Solar System Exploration Division.
An infographic produced by the Norwegian website “Time and Date AS,” which provides free time and date related information. shows that from west to east, the eclipse will be visible from the eastern most points of Canada – the edges of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland – to central-eastern Russia and Mongolia. From north to south, visibility will range from the North Pole to northern African countries and northern China, the graphic showed.
In the UK, where up to 98% of the solar disc will be blocked by the moon, the College of Optometrists has warned against looking directly at the sun when posing for selfies and other photos, a BBC report said earlier this week. The optometrists warned that people should not make use of their phones at all to capture the event, the report added.
NASA safety protocols likewise warn that directly observing partial eclipses requires eye protection, and that failure to do so with appropriate filtration mechanisms can cause permanent eye damage or blindness. Normal sunglasses do not provide suitable protection.
Rather, good choices include shade number 14 welder’s glass or aluminized mylar produced specifically for solar observation, according to NASA. Another possibility is making a pinhole projector, in which a small opening cut into a box or paper is used to project the eclipse onto another paper – with the observer facing away from the sun all the while.
In Israel, Friday’s events will take place beginning at 10:30 a.m. through early afternoon, enabling participants to use special telescopes to observe the partial eclipse, as well as listen to a short lecture, the Israeli Astronomical Association said. Participation in all of the events is free.
The locations and addresses of the six observation stations with Looking Up events on Friday morning include: