Partial eclipses are partially interesting, but they’re not in the same ballpark as witnessing Totality
See the image in the middle of the picture above of the Moon surrounded by a halo? Unless you’re in the Path of Totality, you won’t see that.
When there’s a total solar eclipse, most of the region nevertheless sees only a partial eclipse. Only those in a narrow 100 miles-or-so-wide corridor will have the rare Total Solar Eclipse experience.
Many people won’t make the trip to the path of totality, put off by the specter of traffic, sold-out hotels, and long drives … isn’t it better to avoid the crowds and be happy with a 70% partial eclipse where you live? After all, 70% sounds pretty good.
It’s not; you’ve misunderstood what a Total Solar Eclipse is all about.
A 70%, and even a 90% partial eclipse, is dull. The Moon takes a chunk out of the Sun. So what? You’ll have to look at the whole thing through solar eclipse glasses, and if you do take an image, it won’t be a memorable one. Partial eclipses happen a lot.
If you’re near the Path of Totality and witness a 99% partial eclipse, that could be very cool; light levels will drop, and it will become eery. But you’ll still be missing out completely on what a total solar eclipse is all, and only, about, Totality.
So what’s the difference between a 99% partial eclipse –often mistakenly called ‘99% Totality’ (there is no such thing!) and Totality itself? Watch a 95% partial eclipse and a 99% partial eclipse and you’ll not notice a great deal of difference; the Crescent Sun will look cool at this ‘deep partial’ phase, but the light levels around you won’t change too dramatically.
However, the difference between watching a 99% eclipsed Sun and a totally eclipsed Sun is spectacular; Totality is a million times better.
During Totality, when the Moon completely covers the Sun, those in the Path of Totality are thrown under the Moon’s deepest shadow. Night descends for a few minutes and observers see the solar corona, the Sun’s fiery ‘crown’.
It all happens within the last 15 seconds when the sun goes from 99.9% to 100% covered – and it’s that 0.1% that makes all the difference, enabling us to see the sun’s corona.
So don’t get the eclipse wrong and become a victim of geography – Get To The Path!
Photo credit: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel