Do astronauts have to take extra precautions during solar eclipse 2024?

08-04-2024 12:35 PM

Ammon News - Monday’s total solar eclipse will be visible to astronauts aboard the International Space Station — and they will have to be extra careful as they watch the stellar show while wearing the same protective glasses as Earthlings.

“We wear our solar glasses in space,” NASA and the ISS said in a joint Instagram post last week that showed them doing just that.

The space dwellers will turn their attention to the Earth to observe the shadow cast by the moon and sun to observe the out-of-this-world event, officials said.

“ISS astronauts can see the [moon’s] shadow but not the eclipse itself, because their windows don’t point toward the sun,” Jennifer Levasseur, space history curator at the National Air and Space Museum, explained to Smithsonian Magazine

The crew has the opportunity to see the astronomical event from 250 miles above Earth, where the orbiting space station is set to align with the celestial bodies over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, around 3:30 p.m., according to NASA.

Earlier Monday, the international crew of seven space men and women will be able to see the eclipse’s shadow above the Pacific Ocean as it passes from the New Zealand area and California and Idaho, NASA said.

“They’ll have three opportunities to view the ground shadow (penumbra and umbra) as they orbit at 17,500 miles per hour around Earth,” it wrote on Instagram.

While everyone needs to wear specialized protective glasses while looking at the sun, it’s even more critical for astronauts to protect their eyes.

Ron Garan, who has logged 71 million miles in space and orbited the planet more than 2,800 times during two ISS missions, revealed some of the hazards involved.

“When we look up at the sun now, we’re looking against a blue sky, right? But when we look at it from space, we’re looking at it against a black sky, so we’re seeing our sun as a star, as it really is,” Garan told The Post last month.

“And you shouldn’t look at the sun. The sunlight is much brighter there. And so, you shouldn’t look at the sun for any extended amount of time on Earth, ah, or space, but, you really need to be careful in space,” he added, noting that space suits have reflective visors for that purpose.

The first astronauts to view an eclipse from space were Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin aboard the Agena spacecraft in 1966 — three years before Aldrin would set another milestone by becoming the second man to set foot on the moon.

“The eclipse got to us after all,” Lovell said over the radio as he aligned the spacecraft as the moon passed in front of the sun, according to Smithsonian.

The astronauts then watched as South America was blanketed in shadow as they traveled three miles outside the zone of totality.

Spacemen aboard Apollo 11 and Apollo 15 missions reportedly also caught an eclipse as they rounded the moon in 1969 and 1971.

“Not many people get to see solar eclipses, even on the surface of Earth,” Andrew Johnston, the vice president of astronomy and collections at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, told the magazine.

“Which is a shame, because they’re the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. But seeing them from space is even more unusual.”

In a typical span of 24 hours, the space station makes 16 orbits of the planet, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets every day at about 17,500 miles per hour.

New York Post

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