PRINCETON — What was once the source of superstition and panic is now giving reason to celebrate. While solar eclipses won’t harm unborn babies or cause food to turn poisonous, caution is needed to safely view the upcoming celestial event.
In preparation for the complete solar eclipse which will occur on Aug. 21, the Princeton Public Library (PPL) recently held “Darkness at Noon,” an informational program on Aug. 3. Hosted by local eclipse expert Geri Woodlief, patrons learned about the different types of eclipses, how and why they occur, and how to safely experience them.
“My main goal is to save people’s eyes. You don’t put a hole in a piece of cardboard and look at the sun. The sun is dangerous and will burn your eyes,” Woodlief said.
Woodlief was instrumental getting the city of Princeton to help sponsor the purchase of the eclipse glasses which are now available at the library for $1 while supplies last. These glasses will provide a safe way for people to view the eclipse. A purchase of eclipse glasses will also come with an informational guide, and PPL will also be hosting an eclipse watching event on that day.
Woodlief has traveled around the world on scientific sea cruises to view the totality of three solar eclipses, one of which included time spent getting to know Neil Armstrong and author Isaac Asimov. She also shared what it is that keeps her fascinated in eclipses.
“That the sun, being 93 million miles away, can be covered by the moon, which is 400 times smaller, and you think of everything that has to happen for that to occur at the right moment, you’re just in awe. You feel so small when you realize it,” she said.
While the eclipse will be total in Carbondale, Ill., Woodlief said the Illinois Valley will experience approximately 90 percent coverage, and things will still get quite dark during those couple of minutes.
As millions of people in the eclipse’s path will undoubtedly try to capture a striking image of it with their cameras or phones, Woodlief advised against using cameras, telescopes and binoculars, even with the proper filters.
“What kind of picture are you really thinking you’ll get with your phone?” she asked one audience member.
She said along with the safety concerns, there are so many other aspects to be involved with during quality eclipse photography that it often overshadows the best part of the event.
“Just enjoy and appreciate the experience for what it is and exist in the moment,” Woodlief said.
For more information on the upcoming eclipse visit the library or www. eclipse2017.nasa.gov.