Teacher preparing to see her 14th solar eclipse offers viewing tips

Dr. Patricia Reiff

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Many Americans will see their first solar eclipse ever on Aug. 21, but Dr. Patricia Reiff is going to see her 14th.

Dr. Reiff may know more about space than most people on the planet, having a master’s degree in space science and a Ph. D. in space physics and astronomy. She is also the founding director of the Rice University Space Institute, but she was kind enough to join CBS North Carolina Chief Meteorologist Wes Hohenstein to talk about the solar eclipse.

Her advice to the first time eclipse viewer is to sit back and enjoy the eclipse. Don’t burden yourself with too much camera and electronic equipment, but “enjoy the eclipse with your own eyes, not through a viewfinder.”

Reiff remembers her first eclipse in Canada back in 1979. Skies were overcast early in the day, but cleared up in time. She also remembers forgetting to use her binoculars to see the eclipse because she was so overwhelmed at the site with her own eyes.

She calls it a full body experience. Dr. Reiff says the sky gets dark, the temperatures drop, the winds change, the birds start to roost and it’s almost an eerie experience. She has also been clouded out two times out of her 13 trips.

“Once in Shanghai it was pouring rain during the eclipse, but even if it’s cloudy, there are still experiences you can have with cooler temperatures, birds starting to roost and winds starting to change.”

Reiff points out that while there will be some exciting things to see in central North Carolina, that will see 90-95 percent of the sun covered by the moon, if you don’t go to areas of totality, you will miss seeing the sun’s corona. You can only see those outer edges of the sun when the moon completely covers the sun, which in the Carolina’s would only be western North Carolina and a good portion of South Carolina.

It’s also an important reminder that when looking at the partial eclipse, you must use protective solar eclipse glasses or a viewer to prevent damage to your eyes. If you can’t find either glasses or a viewer, you can also use a projection device which will allow you to see the round disk of the sun become a crescent shape during the eclipse.

Dr. Reiff will travel to Wyoming this year to see the moon cover up the sun, but already has her next total solar eclipse trip planned to South America in a few years.

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