Categorized | Featured, Sci-Tech

Partial solar eclipse visible Thursday afternoon (May 9)

Map that shows the path of the solar eclipse (adapted from timeanddate.com). The dark strip in the center indicates the best locations for viewing the eclipse. Here, the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun. The eclipse is also visible in the areas that are shaded red, but less of the Sun’s disk is obscured. The fainter the red shading the less of the Sun’s disk is covered during the eclipse. In Hawaii, the Sun’s disk will be covered 35 percent. (Image courtesy of Big Island Love)

Special to Hawaii 24/7 by Gerrit van der Plas

The first days of May are good days for stargazers on the Big Island. May 5 kicks of with the moderately bright Eta Aquariids meteor shower, and only four days later you can see a partial solar eclipse.

Current position and orbit of Halley’s comet around our solar system. Every blue dot shows you where the comet is in that year. You can see the comet passes twice (in 1986 and 2061) close to earth, leaving enough space-debris to cause two meteor showers: the Eta Aquariids (early May) and the Orionids (late October). (Image adapted by Big Island Love)

Eta Aquariids meteor shower (May 5)

The Eta Aquariids are a meteor shower with a broad peak, and its shooting stars can be seen between April 19 and May 28. This shower peaks in 2013 on Hawaii during the daytime (3:15 p.m. May 5), so the best time to watch is between midnight and moonrise the nights directly before or after May 5.

The best places to watch a meteor shower are the ones that have dark skies and little light pollution. Luckily, Hawaii is full of such places, and while there are many good places to watch, it is often more fun to watch the meteors together.

You can read more background on this meteor shower in last year’s Hawaii 24/7 article: hawaii247.com/2012/05/05/eta-a…, and on the dedicated page on lovebigisland.com: www.lovebigisland.com/hawaii-b…

Partial solar eclipse (May 9)

You can see a partial solar eclipse from Hawaii between 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday, May 9. The eclipse will be visible from all Hawaiian islands, and lasts about 2.5 hours.

During the moment of largest eclipse the moon will cover about 35 percent of the sun (hence a “partial” solar eclipse). This moment falls on the Big Island at 15:52:49 and on Oahu a couple of minutes earlier, at 15:47:44.

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse is a “reversed lunar eclipse.”

During a lunar eclipse the earth casts a shadow over the moon (see apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130425.ht… for a cool visualization).

During a solar eclipse, the moon throws a shadow over the earth. We see this as a moon that moves in front of the sun (imagine moving a finger in-between you and a lamp).

Because the moon is so much more smaller than the earth, solar eclipses are rarer than lunar eclipses. It also means that sometimes the moon is not large enough to completely cover the sun.

This is the case for the May 2013 solar eclipse, and we call it an “annular eclipse”. This means that during the moment of greatest eclipse (which won’t be visible from Hawaii, see figure), you still will see a bright ring of the sun around the moon.

More information about this solar eclipse, visit: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle… and for viewing tips specific for Hawaii www.lovebigisland.com/hawaii-b…

(Gerrit van der Plas is a frequent visitor to the Big Island and writes for www.lovebigisland.com, which promotes sustainable tourism and has a special focus on astronomical events on Hawaii.)

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