Enthusiastic skywatchers in the San Francisco Bay Area might be disappointed to learn that Saturday’s solar eclipse is likely to be shrouded in fog, but experts still warn: wear protective eyewear.
Referencing a blanket of clouds rolling in across the Golden Gate Bridge, National Weather Service meteorologist Brayden Murdock said the event will be especially difficult to view anywhere oceanside.
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“It’s not really until you get out into the Sac Valley that you start getting the really good chances for clear vision,” Murdock explained, further noting that the cold front could possibly block views that far inland as well.
Despite the cloud coverage, he warned hopeful eclipse viewers to avoid looking directly into the sun without the proper equipment. Local libraries throughout the area are giving away thousands of viewing glasses. People can go to https://www.scigames.org/eclipse/map to find the nearest location.
“This is an annular eclipse, which means that even in the area that has totality, the moon’s far enough away from the Earth that it doesn’t cover the sun completely,” Murdock said. “You get that ring of fire effect, and that ring of fire will burn your corneas.”
He said, “Even if it’s cloudy and you’re trying to look up toward the eclipse, it only takes a second of a glimpse for a direct ray to hit your eye and cause permanent damage.”
Bay Area astronomer Andrew Fraknoi, the retired chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College and current educator at University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University, explained in an email that the Bay Area’s eclipse will begin at 8:05 a.m. and reach its maximum at 9:20 a.m. before concluding at 10:42 a.m.
The Bay Area’s annular eclipse will appear as Murdock describes — a ring of fire — with the dark disk of the moon sitting at the center of the sun. Other areas across the continent will see a partial eclipse, during which the sun will appear to have a bite mark, Fraknoi added.
“This means the eclipsed sun will be relatively low in the eastern sky, and you will need to watch it from a place that has a view of the eastern horizon or toward the east,” Fraknoi said. “An easy way to see the eclipse safely is to get an ordinary colander; stand with your back to the sun, hold the colander on your shoulder and make a shadow of it on the sidewalk. Each little hole in the colander will project a little shadow image showing the eclipsed sun.”
Even if the fog does prevent most skywatchers from viewing the eclipse on Saturday, Fraknoi urged those with eclipse glasses to keep them on hand for the next event only months away on April 8, 2024.
“That one will be a total eclipse in a narrow path from Texas to New England. Most of North America will again see a partial eclipse,” Fraknoi said.