Science + Nature

COSI’s Chief Scientist Talks Solar Eclipse

Do not look directly at the sun! Whatever you do, do not look directly at the sun! That’s the message COSI’s chief scientist, Dr. Paul Sutter, strongly reiterated to me during our conversation about the upcoming total solar eclipse. To be clear, looking at an eclipse isn’t more dangerous than looking at the sun on any other day; it’s just that we don’t normally have a reason to WANT to look directly into the sun’s rays. So on Monday, August 21, shield your eyes!

The special glasses that allow you to look at the eclipse have been flying off the shelves. But fear not, there’s still a chance to get a pair. COSI will be offering free glasses on Monday at its downtown location as well as at all Columbus Metro Library locations and Metro Parks.

You’ve probably heard the word “totality” thrown around as people prepare for the eclipse. That’s the brief moment when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s surface. But central Ohio is north of that narrow path; so from Columbus, we’ll be looking at a partial eclipse. Dr. Sutter recommends traveling to the southern part of Columbus if you can– he says views will be better there than in northern areas of the city. The eclipse should be visible between 1:04pm and 3:52pm; but the best view from Columbus should occur at 2:30pm, when about 90% of the sun will be blocked. That is, of course, assuming it is not a cloudy day. If it is, then I suppose we can all enjoy the pictures later because we won’t see a darn thing.

But if mother nature cooperates, Monday is a chance to see a truly rare phenomenon.  It’ll be the first time since 1974 that a total solar eclipse has crossed over the United States. The last one to cross from coast-to-coast was in 1918. And if you’re disappointed that central Ohio is not in the narrow path of totality — then good news, you have to wait just another 7 years! Another total solar eclipse is on the horizon for 2024, and it’s due to pass over central Ohio.  Dr. Sutter says Columbus will be right at the edge of totality in 2024; Mansfield will be right on the line. 

Images and animation courtesy: NASA

Senior producer for 1812 Columbus. Previous experience includes CBS News in New York and WBNS-10TV here in central Ohio. Loves volleyball, Italian food, and reading crime novels.