Over 100 Gather at UMass Amherst Sunwheel for Solar Eclipse
Over 100 people gathered on Thursday, June 10, around 5:15 a.m to safely observe an eclipse of the sun. A crescent-shaped sun rose in the northeast and remained partially eclipsed by the moon until 6:33 a.m. An eclipse occurring at sunrise is a rare and beautiful event. Because the eclipse occured just 10 days before the summer solstice, the Sunwheel’s standing stones lent extra significance to the moment.
Unlike the total solar eclipse seen across the U.S. in 2017, the June 10 eclipse was annular, or ring-shaped, when viewed from some locations in Canada, Greenland and Russia. Annular eclipses occur when the moon is so far away that it appears smaller than the sun and cannot completely cover it. This left portions of the sun’s blindingly bright surface visible from everywhere the eclipse can be seen. The crescent-shaped rising sun was visible from northeastern states in the U.S., and, in Amherst, up to 74% of the sun will be covered by the moon.
UMass astronomer Stephen Schneider reminded those who wanted to observe the event that it is important to be very careful anytime you look at the sun. “The keyword is caution,” Schneider says “don’t try to push yourself to look at the crescent sun if it’s not dimmed to a dull red, and certainly don’t use binoculars or telescopes as the sun gets higher in the sky. You could seriously injure your eyes.” Schneider reminded the public to use only approved solar light filters to protect the eyes such as the ones that were widely distributed for the 2017 eclipse. Looking through exposed photographic film or CDs is not safe and will not prevent damage to the retina. Most welder’s glass is not dark enough either; only shades 14 and higher are recommended for observing the sun. Astronomers were present to provide explanations about eclipses and advice for photographing the event.
From New England, the sun looked like a crescent as it rises, and the orientation of the crescent will steadily change as the moon slides across the face of the sun. After 6 a.m. in Amherst, the moon covered less than half the sun’s diameter, and the partial eclipse began to look more like a bite taken out of the lower-left portion of the sun.
The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road (Amity St.) about one-quarter mile south of University Drive.