Eclipse essentials for West Michigan

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21 is arguably the biggest celestial event of the century.

In West Michigan, here is what you need to know to get ready and what to expect, although Storm Team 8 says clouds will be on the increase in the area, limiting the potential to see the eclipse.

The eclipse is expected to begin at approximately 12:58 p.m. local time, peaking at about 2:22 p.m. and ending around 3:43 p.m.

WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE HERE

Michigan is outside of the path of totality, which means the sun won’t be fully blocked by the moon during the eclipse. Depending on where you live in West Michigan, the sun will be 75 percent to 85 percent covered during peak eclipse time, which will take place in the Eastern time zone from 2:10 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Google has created a simulator that allows you see what the eclipse will look like depending on location. You can view that simulator by clicking or tapping here. 

NWS Grand Rapids released this image showing about what the sun will look like during the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse in West Michigan

WITHOUT PROTECTION, THE ECLIPSE IN WEST MICHIGAN WON’T BE SAFE TO VIEW

Here in West Michigan the sun will never be completely covered by the moon. That is why is essential to protect your eyes if you plan on watching the eclipse first-hand. Cities and towns that are in the path of totality will have roughly a 2-minute window to watch the eclipse without glasses.

During totality, the sun’s light is blocked out, making it safe to stare. Even though a big chunk of the sun will be covered in West Michigan during the eclipse, there will still be enough sunlight to cause major eye problems if you risk anything more than a glimpse unprotected. Sunglasses are not safe. Eye problems may not be apparent immediately after staring at the sun. Experts say blindness or vision problems may not appear for hours or even a day after the damage has been done.

Pinhole projection is a great way to watch the eclipse without looking at the sun at all. The smaller the hole in a pinhole projector, the better the shadow will be. Leaves can be used as a cheap and beautiful way to watch the eclipse. The shadows cast by the leaves will each turn into mini-projectors, with crescent cuts taken out of them as the eclipse peaks.

LIST OF SAFE ECLIPSE GLASSES

In the mad rush for eclipse glasses, imposters are popping up and they could do damage to your eyes. In West Michigan, you may still be able to find a pair or two at Walmart, Lowes, libraries or the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Here is a list of safe glasses by the American Astronomical Society (supplies are limited, so glasses may be sold out at the links below). See a list of reputable sellers by clicking or tapping here.

RECORDING VIDEO OF THE ECLIPSE WITH YOUR CAMERA PHONE COULD DAMAGE IT

Quick pictures of the sun during the eclipse should be fine with your phone, but extended use during the solar eclipse could permanently damage it. There is an ongoing debate as to how much damage a phone will sustain if it is used extensively during the eclipse. Click or tap here for the complete argument from NASA. 

THINKING OF HEADING TO THE PATH OF TOTALITY?

The path of totality is roughly 400 miles away from us here in West Michigan. If you are planning on making last-minute travel plans to see the eclipse, expect to find expensive hotel costs or no vacancies. Traffic is expected to gridlock in major cities and areas during the eclipse with limited water and bathroom options in the most popular areas.

A map showing the path of totality for the upcoming solar eclipse August 21, 2017 Courtesy: NASA

The next time a total solar eclipse is expected to cut across America with such an extensive path of visibility is April 8, 2024. That path of totality will cross much closer to us in Michigan than the upcoming August eclipse.

Upcoming American total solar eclipses and their paths courtesy: GreatAmericanEclipse.com