Image of a solar eclipse

The observatory will open for guided viewing as Sun and Moon align on the first day of classes on August 21.

BW's Burrell Observatory to host viewing of Great American Solar Eclipse

August 7, 2017

Image of a solar eclipseThe Sun and the Moon will align to produce the "Great American Eclipse" just as Baldwin Wallace University welcomes students back for the first day of classes on August 21, and BW’s Burrell Observatory will be open for guided viewing.

This first total eclipse of the sun to cross the entire country in 99 years will be seen as a partial eclipse here in Northeast Ohio, but Gary Kader, astronomy professor and director of BW’s Burrell Observatory still dubs it "the biggest astronomical event of the year."

The view from NE Ohio

Gary KaderThose in the coast to coast path of the total eclipse will experience more than two minutes of complete daytime darkness. Here in Greater Cleveland, Kader says at about 2:30 p.m.—max viewing time from our vantage point—a major portion of the sun will be blocked by the moon.

"The line of totality will pass south of us so we will not see the full eclipse," he explains. "But we will see a partial eclipse that will cover 80 percent of the Sun and that should be a spectacular sight, depending on the cloud cover."

Kader warns that even if the forecast is for clear skies, high humidity can be a factor in obscuring the view. "As the Moon covers the Sun, the atmosphere will cool. If the temperature reaches the dew point (a 10-15 degree drop), clouds could form in an instant."

"This actually happened to me during the 1972 eclipse," he continues. "We were along the St. Lawrence in eastern Canada. Skies were absolutely clear. Five minutes before totality, the clouds precipitated out and 'poof,' we were clouded out. Fifteen minutes after totality, the skies were clear again."

BW event; safe viewing advice

Burrell Observatory at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, OhioHoping for the best, BW’s Burrell Observatory (42 E. Fifth Ave. in Berea) is scheduled to be open from 1 to 4 p.m. on eclipse day, and will have a filtered telescope for safe solar viewing. Another telescope will safely project the image of the moon moving across the sun on a screen.

Kader emphasizes, "We have special filters and equipment at the observatory for safely viewing the Sun. It is not safe to look at the Sun without proper filters under any conditions. Looking at the Sun with an improperly filtered telescope or binoculars could result in immediate blindness."

Kader says safety filters are available from a number of online outlets and a #14 welding filter also provides safe viewing, but it must be a #14.

NASA emphasizes that "homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun."

Detailed information on certified safe equipment and recommended manufacturers can be found on NASA's website. 

Speedy eclipse; next chance

Kader says the shadow of this eclipse will be viewable only in the U.S., hence the term "Great American Eclipse." The shadow will "make landfall" near Salem, Oregon and exit at Charleston, South Carolina 90 minutes later. "That means," Kader explains, "the shadow will be traveling from 1,500 to 2,100 miles per hour."

"If you miss this one," he adds, "There will be another eclipse on April 8, 2024 that will pass through Cleveland."

NASA image of solar eclipse stages