Once In a Lifetime! Pittsburgh’s Eclipse Events You Don’t Want to Miss

By now, I am sure you have heard about the eclipse that is going to happen on April 8. In just a few short days a rare and magical natural event will take place that promises to stop us in our tracks. Why is it such a big deal? The next eclipse in North America won’t take place until 2044 and it will only be visible in a small region of Alaska and the region around the Dakotas. The next solar eclipse to be visible in Pittsburgh won’t take place until 2144, making next week even more special.

By Tre Harrington

Pittsburgh won’t be directly in the path of totality, but you can still expect to come pretty close at 97% coverage. In the city, eclipse viewing will happen between 1:59pm and 4:30pm. Max totality will be reached at 3:17pm.

Eclipse Map

If you are interested in checking out complete totality, the path passes northwest of town. You can see on the map where you should try to be on eclipse day. You’ll need to get at least as far as Youngstown or Akron to be in the path, and I-76 would be perfect to get you there. Heading up I-79 to Erie would also be a good bet, to see about 3m40s of totality just after 3:16pm EDT. The centerline lies just north of Erie, in the southern part of Lake Erie. You won’t be able to get to the centerline without a boat unless you head to Buffalo, or to points near Cleveland.

Eclipse Phases

So, what is the difference between a partial solar eclipse and totality? The distinction between a partial and total solar eclipse lies primarily in the degree to which the Moon obscures the Sun as viewed from Earth, and consequently, the differing visual phenomena and experiences associated with each type of eclipse.

The total eclipse affords a rare view of the solar corona, along with other phenomena such as Baily’s beads and the diamond ring effect. Baily’s beads are seen just before and after totality when the rugged lunar surface allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some places. The diamond ring effect occurs just before and after totality when only a single bead of sunlight is visible, creating the appearance of a diamond ring. It’s safe to view the total phase of a solar eclipse (when the Sun is entirely covered) with the naked eye. However, solar viewing glasses are required during the partial phases before and after totality. The area from which totality can be observed, known as the path of totality, is relatively narrow, often only about 100 miles wide.

Partial eclipses lack these phenomena since the Sun is never fully obscured. Observers will see a crescent Sun as the Moon passes across its face. Solar viewing glasses are essential for safely viewing a partial solar eclipse in Pittsburgh at all times to prevent eye damage. Partial eclipses have a broader geographic reach, with a partial obscuration of the Sun visible over a wide area extending thousands of miles from the path of totality.

In a total solar eclipse, the moon covers the sun for a short while. But in Pittsburgh, we’ll see a deep partial eclipse, where the moon covers about 95% of the sun. So, the sky will darken, but we won’t see some of the super cool effects like the glowing solar corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere) that you see in a total solar eclipse.

Eclipse Types

If you are considering traveling to totality for April 8, Have a plan. Many destinations within the path of totality are expecting populations to at least quadruple, and small towns will be completely flooded with excited onlookers — creating a stream of traffic before and after the event. Locally the celestial event likely will draw throngs to spots from Erie and Edinboro to Cleveland, to name just a few.

For those wanting to stay closer to home, check out the Eclipse Extravaganza that is being offered by the Carnegie Science Center, rain or shine (included with general admission). The gathering features special solar observation gear, a mind-blowing solar telescope and a complimentary 3D-printed pinhole projector. Visitors can join an array of activities like decorating eclipse glasses holders and “traveling out of this world” in Buhl Planetarium. No matter the weather, live views can be seen outside or in The Rangos Giant Cinema, state-of-the-art Buhl Planetarium and the Science Stage.

Total Eclipse

Here is a guide to all the Carnegie Science Center will be offering on the Day of the Eclipse:

The Main Event – Eclipse Viewing

Eclipse Viewing: 1:59– 4:30 pm

Max totality: 3:17 pm

Pittsburghers will experience an excellent viewing perspective of the eclipse, with the Moon covering approximately 97% of the Sun. Sunlight will dim for a few minutes, but the sky will not go dark. Experience the eclipse rain or shine with a host of activities throughout the day:

Buhl Planetarium

Solar Eclipse Programming

The Rangos Giant Cinema

Astronaut: Ocean to Orbit

10:30 am, 11 am, 11:30 am, 12 pm, 12:30 pm, and 1 pm

In 2013, a critical life-support system on the International Space Station failed, requiring an immediate spacewalk to fix it. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy made the repair and saved the Space Station. As an astronaut, he was trained extensively for space walks. But how do astronauts train here on Earth to work in the microgravity of space? Astronaut: Ocean to Orbit explores the ways in which NASA uses underwater environments to simulate life and work in space, offering a fascinating look into the high-tech world of astronauts.

BodyStage

Solar Science in a Scoop

Explore the chemistry of ice cream as our science chefs make tasty custard and cool it down with liquid nitrogen.

Works Theaters

Earth & Friends

Soar through the Solar System in our Works Theater! Early learners will explore space chemistry as they visit Earth and its the other major planets and learn why Earth has the right stuff for life!

It Came From Outer Space

Blast off with explosive experiments as we discover how technology developed to solve problems in space makes our lives better on Earth. Learn which things you use every day are actually Space Age inventions!

Live NASA Feed

Live stream of solar eclipse in Path of Totality by NASA.

Check out eclipse-themed demos throughout the Science Center. On the portico, weather-permitting, build a pinhole projector out of a box and decorate eclipse glasses holders commemorating the special event.

Eclipse Model

Want to avoid the crowds and find a more adult venue to view the eclipse? Space Bar in Market Square is hosting an Eclipse viewing party. $5 gets you a rooftop seat and ISO certified viewing glasses for the event. They will even have an eclipse themed drink to honor the event! Get your tickets here, they are going quick!

Maybe you are stuck in an office for the day or you are a homebody who would rather enjoy the sky on your own. Keep in mind that since the sun will be lower in the sky than in 2017, tall buildings might block some views. And regardless of where you watch, eye safety should be a top priority since staring at the sun with the unaided eye (even brief glimpses) can cause serious harm. Always use proper filters or safe solar projection techniques, and make sure your eclipse glasses are certified; regular sunglasses won’t protect your eyes. ISO certified glasses will be labeled with ISO 12312-2 or ISO 12312:2015. (Eclipse glasses also shouldn’t be damaged or scratched before use.) If you don’t have glasses, have no fear, you can still check out the eclipse! Just download your Box Pinhole Projector instructions here and you will be good to go.

The Pittsburgh solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, is going to be a fantastic event. Although we’ll only see a partial eclipse in Pittsburgh, it will still be an amazing sight. Remember to get solar eclipse glasses to watch safely, and consider traveling if you want to see the total eclipse. With some planning and the right gear, you’re all set for a great solar eclipse viewing experience!

Fun Facts About Solar Eclipses

  • Solar eclipses happen when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on Earth.
  • During a total solar eclipse, the day can turn into night for a brief moment, and the temperature can drop significantly, often by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Solar eclipses can affect animal behavior. For instance, birds might stop singing, and some animals might prepare for sleep as they’re tricked into thinking it’s nighttime.
  • Total solar eclipses, where the moon completely covers the sun, are quite rare, occurring only once every 18 months somewhere on Earth.
  • The speed of the moon’s shadow as it travels across Earth can be over 2,000 miles per hour at the equator and slow down to a speed of about 1,000 miles per hour near the poles due to the Earth’s curvature.
  • The longest a total solar eclipse can last is 7.5 minutes, but most are much shorter.
  • Solar eclipses have been observed and recorded by humans for thousands of years. They often held religious or cultural significance in ancient civilizations.
  • Solar eclipses provide a unique opportunity for scientists to study the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, which is usually obscured by the bright light of the sun.
  • Eclipses are among the most predictable celestial events. Scientists can predict when and where they will occur with precise accuracy, often many years in advance.
  • Solar eclipses follow an eclipse cycle known as the Saros cycle, which is approximately 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours. Eclipses separated by a Saros cycle share similar geometry.
  • Just before and after totality in a total solar eclipse, when a tiny portion of the sun is still visible, it creates a visually stunning effect known as the “diamond ring effect.”
  • Another beautiful phenomenon observed during solar eclipses is Bailey’s Beads. These are beads of sunlight that shine through the valleys on the moon’s surface right before and after totality.

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