Elementary Ecliptics

There's been talk galore about the approaching July 11 celestial spectacular known as the total eclipse. Millions the world over wait in anticipation for the earth, sun and moon to orbit into perfect alignment. The likes of which--creating near-total darkness at a few points on earth for nearly seven minutes--will not be seen again until the year 2132.

So you'd like to experience the eclipse, but you're not sure how best to go about it? Maybe you'd like to learn more about the mechanics of the whole shebang?

You might consider trekking to Moorpark College's Charles Temple Observatory for an elementary ecliptic education.

On hand to explain proper viewing procedures and to answer questions will be Moorpark College astronomy instructor Dennis Leatart.

"Dennis will also set up several telescopes to provide viewing," said Hal Jandorf, an astronomy instructor at the college. The eclipse will be reflected onto special screens via the telescopes, he said.

"Along the coast, we'll get 70% shielding from the sun," Jandorf said. We won't experience total darkness, but it will dim things a bit, he said.

According to Dr. Thomas Holden, an eye specialist from Oxnard, safety should be your main concern during the eclipse.

"This can cause irreversible retina damage if the proper precautions are not taken," Holden said. "The eclipse can be the most damaging when it seems the most comfortable to look at."

Jandorf has a safe suggestion if you can't make it to the observatory.

"The easiest way to observe is to get a flat mirror and tape a piece of paper over the mirror," he said. You'll want to have cut a 1/4-inch hole into the paper. "Simply reflect the sun on to a shaded wall, standing about 10 feet away from it. You will have an inch-diameter view of the eclipse. It works perfectly," Jandorf said.

Those interested in attending the observatory viewing and discussion should arrive by 10:30 a.m. The eclipse should reach its 70% climax around 11:30 a.m. No charge. The campus is at 7075 Campus Road. Call 378-1408.

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