In late August, a total solar eclipse will be visible for those living along a narrow strip of land.
Stretching across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, an estimated 12 million people live along the strip.
However, another 7 million people are expected to take at trip, dropping in on the eclipse.
The celestial alignment is a rare treat.
For the contiguous 48 states, a total solar eclipse has not occurred in almost four decades.
The last one took place on Feb. 26th, 1979.
KINNELON – With a total eclipse of the sun set to span the entire country for the first time in nearly a century next month, one Smoke Rise photographer and astronomer knows just how to safely captured images of the natural phenomenon.
William Gutsch said the eclipse will occur on Aug. 21 and is expected to last about two and a half hours as the moon blocks part or all of the sun as it passes between the sun and the Earth. It will be the first solar eclipse spanning the entire United States since 1918.
“In a narrow strip of land that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, known as the path of totality, people will be witness to a total eclipse of the sun — one of the most awesome displays in nature,” Gutsch said. “For up to about two minutes and 40 seconds, depending on exactly where you are, as the dark disk of the new moon completely covers the bright disk of the sun, the sun will be transformed into what will look like a black hole in the sky surrounded by a pearly glow and pinkish-red tongues of fire. The brighter stars and planets will come out in the middle of the day.”
In New Jersey, the partial eclipse is expected to begin at about 1:23 p.m. on Aug. 21, reaching its peak, about 77 percent covered, at about 2:44 p.m. before concluding at about 4 p.m., depending on the day’s weather conditions.
“It’ll look like a solar smile in New Jersey,” Gutsch said. “But the real fireworks will be in the path of totality. Go west, young man.”
The window to watch the total eclipse is extremely short. The longest it will last is in Illinois, where it will approach three minutes.
Gutsch plans to capture the eclipse in Oregon alongside family using a 500 millimeter lens.
“The weather prospects are better out west according to climate date,” Gutsch said. “Planning this far out, you’re trying to avoid cloudiness.”
Gutsch has shot two eclipses, missing out on another two due to weather conditions. He will have less than two minutes to get his shot this time.
“It is the fastest couple of minutes of your life. Before you know it those two minutes will be gone,” Gutsch said. “What you see at totality is really quite stunning. A black hole in the sky. I can show you the best pictures ever taken, but it’s nothing like seeing it in person. I’m half tempted to say ‘to heck with my camera’ and just stare at it.”
Gutsch recommends people practice getting their shot on both the sun and the moon so they are prepared when the time comes. He also recommends using a tripod to steady the shot.
The closest destination to the path of totality from New Jersey is a straight shot down I-95 to South Carolina. But Gutsch cautions that hotels within the path have been booked for a long time, so people should plan to travel into the area on the day of the event.
It should make for some incredible photos and videos, but people near the path of totality should expect traffic the day of, and Gutsch advises people to commute to their desired destinations in advance.
With this eclipse set to follow a clear path through the United States, and with more people than ever expected to be aware of the event in this social media age, Gutsch expects this will be the most observed and captured eclipse in history.
“A bit over three quarters of the sun will be covered by the black disk of the moon turning the sun into a smiley crescent in the mid-afternoon sky,” Gutsch said. “A solar eclipse, either partial or total, should be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, but very special precautions need to be taken to make sure people are viewing the eclipse, and photographing it if they wish, safely.”
Gutsch is offering a seminar where he will provide tips on how people can best and safely experience and preserve the extremely rare celestial event.
The presentation will explain what causes an eclipse, where to travel for the best vantage points, and how to view it safely. Gutsch will also explain which lenses, filters and other equipment are best to safely capture the eclipse.
The seminar is open to all, and geared toward professionals and photo enthusiasts alike.
“If you obey the rules, you’re fine. If you don’t, it gets dangerous,” Gutsch said. “You can really enjoy this incredible phenomenon, or you can blind yourself. Even if it’s partially covered, it’s just as dangerous as staring at the sun.”
Once in totality, the eclipse is safe to look at with no protection, as it is no different than staring at the moon. Since the path of totality will not pass through New Jersey, the event must be seen and captured through protective lenses.
Those lenses do not need to be expensive, as Gutsch said “simple cheesy cardboard ones” will do fine, as long as they have an “ISO” logo and have the letters “CE” on the lenses, as that indicates they have been tested to be safe for the eye.
For those planning to catch the next total solar eclipse, one is not expected in the United States until 2024.
Now retired, Gutsch was a professor at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, chairman of American Museum-Hayden Planetarium in New York, and science editor for WABC. He was a special correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “World News This Morning,” where he covered space missions. Gutsch has worked on professional photo shoots worldwide, from the jungles of Mexico to the temples of Bali. He has lectured about his work on six continents.
“The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017” will be held at Unique Photo in Fairfield, July 22, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The seminar costs $20 and includes a $10 token redeemable at the store.
Go to https://www.uniquephoto.com/event/294 for more information on Gutsch’s solar eclipse class.
Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; mizzo@GannettNJ.com
If you go:
The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017 Photography Seminar
When: Saturday, July 22, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Where: Unique Photo, 123 US Highway 46 West, Fairfield
Cost: $20, with a $10 token redeemable at the store
More information: 973-377-2007 or https://www.uniquephoto.com/event/294
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