This month, on Aug. 21, a total eclipse of the sun will occur from coast to coast in North America. It is an event that is extremely rare, but if you live in the Cayman Islands, you’ll have to get on a plane going north to experience it.
An eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, blocking all or part of the sun from sight on the Earth’s surface. This can result in several types of eclipses, from partial, which is when the moon obscures only part of the sun; annular, when the moon is perfectly aligned between the Earth and sun but the apparent size of the moon is not large enough to obscure the sun; to a total eclipse, which is the most spectacular because the sun is completely obscured and the area in the moon’s shadow experiences complete darkness.
The August event will result in a total eclipse and the moon’s shadow will travel across the entire North American continent from near Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. At any particular location on the Earth’s surface, the darkness will last approximately two minutes and the entire event a few hours. Here in the Cayman Islands, we will experience a partial eclipse with the moon obscuring about one-half of the sun. Unless we make an effort to watch the event, we most likely won’t even notice it.
It is dangerous to look directly into the sun at any time, including during an eclipse, so special shielding beyond normal sunglasses is required. If so equipped, one can watch the event, starting at about noon and at the maximum about two hours later.