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What will the solar eclipse look like in CT?

A partial solar eclipse in 2021.
Courtesy of SHU Discovery Science Center and Planetarium
A partial solar eclipse in 2021.

A once-in-a-generation solar eclipse can be seen in our region on Monday, April 8. Not the total eclipse, as Connecticut and Long Island are not in the path of totality. However, residents can get a partial viewing — with the proper eyewear, of course!

The SHU Discovery Science Center and Planetarium in Bridgeport, Connecticut, will be hosting a viewing event. WSHU's Sabrina Garone spoke with the museum's planetarium and technology director, Elliot Severn, about what we can expect to see.

WSHU: There are different views and kinds of eclipse, right? I think most people will remember the one from a few years ago in the summer of 2017. We all broke out the little glasses and it was a lot of fun! It was a cool thing to see. But there's a lot of hype around this upcoming one in particular. Could you explain what makes this one so special?

ES: After this, it won't happen again in the United States until 2044. And although a partial eclipse is going to happen in Connecticut — it's going to be about 90% covered — in order to see a total solar eclipse, you have to go to either a part of Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York or Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine. And the big question, especially in April, is where will a clear sky be? Everybody is watching the weather forecast very closely and getting ready to scramble and make a last-minute decision.

WSHU: Do you know of anyone traveling to other states?

ES: Many, many. And I am among them! I'm sort of split between upstate New York and Maine. And as we get closer the weather models are going to get a little more accurate, but anything can happen on eclipse day. So, you have to be on your toes!

A total solar eclipse from 2017. Our region will be able to get a partial viewing of a solar eclipse on Monday, April 8.
Courtesy of SHU Discovery Science Center and Planetarium
A total solar eclipse from 2017. Our region will be able to get a partial viewing on Monday, April 8.

WSHU: And what is actually happening during a solar eclipse?

ES: During a solar eclipse, the moon casts a shadow on the Earth. Now, the moon goes around Earth every 27 days. And you would expect that each time it goes between the Earth and the sun that it would cast a shadow on Earth. But, it's orbit is tilted by about five degrees. So, usually, its shadow misses Earth entirely and goes out into space. Only when its orbit is aligned just right does it actually cast a shadow on the Earth. And in one coincidence — our moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun, but it's about 400 times closer. So, the sun and moon appear the same size in the sky from Earth. A total solar eclipse would not be possible if the moon were any smaller or bigger.

WSHU: So if Connecticut residents are like, not trying to hop on a plane or take a long drive, is there one part of the state you think is better than the other? Or are we all going to pretty much see the same thing if we're staying in this region?

ES: All of Connecticut will experience a 90% solar eclipse. And in a partial eclipse, it won't get dark out. It will be light all day. And you can't look at it directly, but through special eclipse glasses and solar filters, you'll be able to see a thin, crescent sun covered by a dark disc of the moon. And so it's a really cool thing to see if you stay here, but the main event is going to be a five to six-hour drive north of here. And if you can take the trip, I strongly recommend it.

WSHU: If you're not, you can go to the Discovery Center, right? And some fun things are going on over there, as well! Could you give us an idea of what people can expect?

ES: Exactly! So, if you can't go to the path of totality, we're going to have a free event. We're going to have eclipse glasses available for viewing. We're going to have a solar telescope available to look through, and we're also going to have planetarium shows throughout the day. The eclipse itself is going to start at about 2:12 p.m. In Bridgeport, the maximum eclipse at 90% covered is going to be at about 3:26 p.m., and the whole eclipse is going to be over around 4:30 in the afternoon.

WSHU is licensed by Sacred Heart University, the owner and operator of SHU Discovery Science Center and Planetarium.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.