Solar eclipses: partial vs totality

I was looking up information for the August eclipse this year. I live surprisingly close to the path of totality, but it’s still something of a drive, and for various reasons I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to make the trip.

The area where I live is going to see a pretty good partial eclipse-- about 89%. I’ve seen other partials, and I know that there will be some noticeable effects. What I’m wondering is what percentage is enough to see a noticeable darkening–say as you’re just standing around outside and not necessarily paying close attention. Even if I’m not able to make the trip to the path of totality, even a hour’s drive would bump up the partial coverage by a few percentage points. But I don’t know if that would make a big difference to what’s readily noticeable.

Seriously, make the effort. There is nothing that can compare to the drama of totality. Nothing.

89% will be noticeably dark in a slightly odd manner. I remember once, many years ago, driving to work one day, and thinking, what odd light it is - the sky is clear, the sun is up, but everything looks odd. Then I remembered that there was a partial eclipse over us that morning. It would have been of the order of 90%, maybe a bit less.

But compared to seeing the real thing? You are not even vaguely close. After a full totality everyone is just gob-smacked, and the first thing everyone thinks is - Wow! I want to do that again. A partial eclipse? Meh. I really wouldn’t have cared had I slept through it. I drove well over 1000km round trip for the last total eclipse.

There are experiences in life that are just so out there that nothing in your past prepares you for what they are like. Seeing the sky go near black and a flaming black orb with magenta spikes around the edge sitting in the sky is one of those. You can see pictures, but nothing is like the real thing.

Seconded. Except I’ve never seen a total eclipse (though I will!).

I agree with partial eclipses being dimmish in a slightly odd manner. You get some cool shadows, too. But it still looks like daytime, more or less–you would think that cutting the light by 10x would be significant, but our eyes have a huge dynamic range and it’s still 100x brighter than typical indoor lights. So the difference is kinda subtle.

Concur, especially with that awesome description. There is nothing especially interesting about a partial because the effect is basically similar to that of clouds, except you see a diminished light in what might be a clear blue sky and shadows remain sharp. A higher percentage of partial eclipse just looks like heavier clouds.

It’s not worth going to much trouble to drive to increase the percentage of partial coverage, but entirely worth it IMHO to drive to the region of totality. The US is very fortunate on this occasion to have the path of totality sweep the entire country, from South Carolina in the east all the way to the northern coast of Oregon. It would be a shame for anyone within driving distance to miss it.

I agree with above. I’ve seen total and seen something like 90+% totality. There is no comparison. Go. This upcoming eclipse has been on my calendar for two years; it’s absolutely something I want to experience again.

It’s been on my calendar for 26 years, ever since “The Big One” in Hawaii, in 1991. I’ve seen three total eclipses, and even 99% is nothing in comparison.

Make the effort. A partial eclipse is NOTHING like a total eclipse. You will not see the corona. You will not see the ripples of darkness. You will not see Bailey’s Beads, nor the Diamond Ring.

Agree with all above.

We had a 97% eclipse in the South of the UK fifteen or so years ago. It was a bit twilighty and you could project the image of the sun onto a wall, but honestly that was about it.

if you can reasonably make the trip, make the trip

Meh … I red lettered this eclipse 39-1/2 years ago … after dodging fog banks in the Gorge …

This is must-see-TV as it were … it’s a life-changing event … there’s nothing more beautiful in the natural world …

As always, get your eye protection early … #12 welding glass or better … you’ll need it during all the partial phases

Just to reiterate what others said, I saw a total eclipse 21 years ago. Especially dramatic was the instant when the sun re-emerged from total eclipse. The difference between 100% eclipse and 99.999% eclipse was … like the difference between night and day!

Joining in the eclipse leave. Saw a total in 2012 in Port Douglas, North Queensland, and am travelling to the US from Oz this year to see it again.

A partial eclipse is like a partial orgasm. Not even close to the real thing.

I think it was Isaac Asimov who said that for a solar eclipse, the difference between 99% and 100% is as great as the difference between 0% and 99%. I was in eastern Pennsylvania for the 1970 eclipse so it was somewhere around 95% Things got kind of twilighty (I remember thinking “thin”) but, I’m sure no where near totality. What I found intriguing was noticing that the spots of light cast on the ground after passing through trees’ leaves were all crescents.

90% is still pretty cool though. I remember the May 30, 1984 eclipse as a kid, and it was about 2:30 in the afternoon and about 90% totality in Houston.

It got noticeably darker- not quite dark, but definitely twilight/dusky, and noticeably cooler for a short period.

I noticed this too when we had a 60% eclipse in 1994. In addition, the temperature probably dropped 20 degrees while the sun was obscured, and the sky was a shade of blue I’ve never seen before or since. Even though it didn’t seem darker, the street lights were also on, and there wasn’t a cloud in that beautiful blue June sky.


I can’t wait for August 17th! :stuck_out_tongue:

Here’s the official website, complete with a map.

I don’t know if that’s a joke, but the eclipse is August 21st.

I saw a total eclipse over 25 years ago and would go out of the way to see one, again, but not as far as buying a plane ticket or needing a Visa.

If you zoom out on that map, it looks like the eclipse was made to order specifically for the USA! It starts in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, proceeds to the coast of South Carolina, sweeps across the whole country to the coast of Oregon, then moves out and ends in the middle of the Pacific.

<nitpick> It starts in the Pacific, crosses into Oregon and across the USA, exits South Carolina and finishes out in the Atlantic </nitpick>