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The Student Voice of Prosper High School

Eagle Nation Online

The Student Voice of Prosper High School

Eagle Nation Online

The Student Voice of Prosper High School

Eagle Nation Online

District offers students ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to experience rare solar eclipse during school with classmates, teachers, administrators

Prosper falls in the path of totality for highly anticipated April 8 celestial event
During the total solar eclipse, the Sun’s corona, only visible during the total eclipse, is shown as a crown of white flares from the surface. The red spots called Bailey’s beads occurs where the moon grazes by the Sun and the rugged lunar limb topography allows beads of sunlight to shine through in some areas as photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. Photo and Caption Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

At approximately 1:42 p.m. on Monday, April 8, the sky will darken, the wind will shift, temperatures will drop, and birds will quiet. This is what happens during a total solar eclipse, when the moon momentarily slips between the sun and earth, casting a shadow on parts of the globe.

For most of the world, only a sliver of the sun will be blocked by the moon, but those who are in the path of totality, directly in the moon’s shadow, will experience totality, where the moon blocks the sun completely and a “ring of light” appears in the sky.  On April 8, Dallas and surrounding areas, including Prosper, fall within this path of totality. There will also be a partial eclipse before and after the total eclipse, lasting from approximately 12:23 p.m. to 3:02 p.m. in the DFW area.

“We got together as a district and were like ‘we’ve got to show the kids this,'” PHS principal Nicholas Jones said. “We’re in like the perfect path.”

Eclipses happen all the time, though. So why is this one special? Well, the last time a total solar eclipse was visible in the US was 1979, and there will not be another for more than two decades. According to NASA, the next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the contiguous United States will occur on Aug. 23, 2044. The next time parts of Texas will fall within the path of totality is in 2078. Another reason this eclipse has garnered so much anticipation amongst scientists and eclipse chasers is that the sun is nearing the peak of its 11-year solar cycle, and has been relatively active this year. Scientists predict that the corona, the tendrils and sheets of gas that make up the sun’s outer atmosphere, will appear significantly brighter during the April eclipse than in the last total solar eclipse, back in 2017.

“In 2017, the sun was nearing solar minimum,” Abby Interrante said in an article published on NASA’s website. “Since the sun was quiet, streamers flowing into the solar atmosphere were restricted to just the equatorial regions of the star. During the 2024 eclipse, the sun will be in or near solar maximum, when the magnetic field is more like a tangled hairball. Viewers will have a better chance to see prominences – which appear as bright, pink curls or loops coming off the sun.”

Not only do the sun and moon have to align, but in order to have full visibility of the eclipse, the weather also has to be right. The forecast calls for various levels of cloud cover on April 8 with slight chances of rain.

“The only reason we won’t go outside is if it’s raining,” Jones said. “If its cloudy you’ll still be able to see it because it’s that powerful.”

The time that the eclipse will remain in totality will also be longer during the 2024 eclipse. In 2017, the longest period of totality was 2 minutes and 42 seconds. This year, totality will last more than four minutes in many US cities.

“I’m excited because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” PHS Physics teacher Eric Mach said. “I’ve only ever been in a partial solar eclipse, never a total one.”

These graphics show the path of totality for the solar eclipse that will occur on April 8, 2024. The graphic on the left is from a New York Times article by Jonathan Corum. The graphic on the right is from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. Prosper, Texas is on the west edge of the path of totality.

The height of the eclipse will occur in the middle of the school day. In order to ensure that students do not miss the astronomical phenomenon, Prosper ISD has made arrangements for students in grades 2-12 to view the eclipse from outside. There will be a modified bell schedule on April 8, and students will not go to advisory. At around 1:30 pm, approximately 10 minutes before totality, eclipse glasses will be distributed and classes will be released to designated viewing areas. Students who don’t want to participate will go to the cafeteria until class resumes. Seniors with early release who do not want to stay for the eclipse will be released at 1:15 p.m.

“I love that we’re hyping it up — because it’s cool,” Mach said. “And we’re doing it safely. I just hope nobody is stupid and looks up without those glasses on.”

This timetable, published in NASA’s article “2024 Total Eclipse: When and Where” shows the start and end times of the eclipse in major US cities in the path of totality.

We really wanted the kids to be able to see this. It’s hard because theres 3,500 kids, but we’re going to make it work.”

— Principal Nicholas Jones

The dangers of improperly viewing a solar eclipse

During an eclipse the sun is incredibly bright and looking at highly concentrated solar rays for even a few seconds can cause severe eye damage. Improper viewing of an eclipse can burn your retinas, a condition called solar retinopathy that can cause distorted vision, photosensitivity, partial vision loss, and even blindness. Symptoms may be temporary and resolve on their own over a period of 3-6 months, but in severe cases the damage is permanent. Looking directly at an eclipse will cause the lenses in your eyes to focus the eclipse’s intense solar rays onto a small point on your retina, similar to focusing the sun’s rays with a magnifying glass in order to start a fire. Since children are more at risk for retinal burns, with young eyes transmitting more light to the retina, PISD has decided to not let students below the second grade outside to view the eclipse.

Safely viewing the eclipse

To safely view a solar eclipse, you need to be wearing eclipse glasses that comply with international safety standards. PISD will provide these glasses to all students in grades 2-12 who wish to view the eclipse. Students should keep their glasses on throughout the entirety of the eclipse and should make sure the glasses are not scratched or damaged before looking at the sun. Anyone who is planning to view the eclipse outside of school or with their families can buy safe eclipse glasses from the American Astronomical Society. The AAS has also released this guide on how to spot counterfeit eclipse glasses. It is important to note that wearing glasses doesn’t make a camera, telescope, or other lens without a solar filter safe to look through, as the lens will concentrate the solar rays enough to burn through the filter in the eclipse glasses.

Safety Summary

If you skipped over the rest of the safety information, here are the main points

  • Keep eclipse glasses on whenever you are looking at the eclipse, not doing so can lead to severe eye damage
  • Sunglasses, cameras, binoculars, or telescopes without a special filter are NOT safe to look through during an eclipse, even if you are wearing eclipse glasses

If for you are unable to go outside to see the eclipse, or if cloud conditions obscure viewing, you can watch NASA’s live broadcasts to see live views from across the US along with expert commentary, or clean telescope views of the eclipse showing the eclipsed sun in different wavelengths of light.

Photographing a Solar Eclipse

Many people would rather immerse themselves in the eclipse experience instead of fidgeting around with a camera during this rare event, and if that's you that is totally okay! However, if you do want to try to capture your own photos there are a few things you should know first.

Is it possible?

Short answer: yes, it is possible to take good photos of a solar eclipse with a smartphone or other camera. However, don't expect to get the same detailed shots of the sun's carona that you see when you search eclipse photos online. These are usually taken with powerful professional cameras, telescopes, or a combination of the two. Most photos of the eclipse taken with smartphone cameras without a zoom lens or special solar filter will appear pixelated, but there are some techniques you can use to take better photos. Some tips to capture better photos of the eclipse include turning off your flash, not zooming in, putting an extra pair of solar glasses over the camera lens, and using a wide angle shot.

Is it safe?

It is NOT safe to look at the sun through DSLR or Mirrorless camera lens, even if you are wearing eclipse glasses. Optical lenses concentrate light, and the sun's rays will burn through the solar filter. It will also damage your camera lens. If you want to take more professional looking photos with these type of cameras you can view Nikon's guide to safely photographing an eclipse.

When you take a picture with your phone though, your eye is not lined up with the lens so it is much less likely to cause eye damage. According to Apple, the eclipse will not damage your phone's camera, but newer more powerful smartphone cameras can take in more light than older models, and sources are unclear on wether it is enough to damage your camera. Because of this, it's  best to cover your lens with an extra pair of solar glasses; this will also give you better pictures.

The only time it is safe to look at or photograph an eclipse without solar filters is DURING totality, where the sun is completely covered by the moon. But, even the small slivers of light that are visible before and after totality are enough to damage your eyes and camera.

This graphic shows the adjusted bell schedule for April 8 along with more info about viewing the eclipse. The graphic was sent out to all PHS students via email on April 4.
Graphics provided by NASA and assembled in the PISD slideshow that was shared with all teachers show when it is safe to take off eclipse glasses.
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Tess Gagliano
Tess Gagliano, Executive Design Editor
Tess Gagliano is a Senior at Prosper High School and currently serves as an Executive Design Editor for Eagle Nation Online and Eagle Nation Times. Outside of school she enjoys reading, writing, and working on her own art. She also plays club volleyball, makes jewelry, and helps take care of foster cats and other animals on the family farm. Honor Societies: National Honor Society National Art Honor Society Quill and Scroll Journalism Awards: 2023 UIL Ready Writing: All Tournament Best TAJE 2024 Best in Texas Entertainment Review, Honorable Mention TAJE 2024 Best in Texas News Magazine Cover, Honorable Mention 2023 ATPI Fall Photo Contest: 3rd Place Photostory 2023 Quill & Scroll Finalist / News Magazine Front Page Design 2024 ILPC Personal Opinion Column - 3rd place  
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