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Viewing an Eclipse

February 24, 1998:
While I think the broadcast version of CNN and its family of networks does an excellent job reporting science, their website has some problems [Note (April 17, 2000): that link is no longer active; I assume they took it down because it was so old. The Reuter's page mentioned below is also no longer active]. They have an article about the solar eclipse on Thursday, February 26, 1998. They say it is safe to view the eclipse through unexposed film, but this is not true, and in fact is very dangerous. Excite's Reuters news page gives the same bad advice; I think the CNN site uses the same reference (it has a Reuters byline). I won't go into a long winded explanation, but will instead send concerned readers to the Solar Eclipse Safety web site which talks about this at length.
Note added 3/4/98 Bad Reader John Cholewa brought to my attention that the CNN website also said that this was the last total solar eclipse that will be seen in the Western Hemisphere this millennium. That's not true. There will be another one in August 1999, and the path of totality starts just south of Nova Scotia, in Canada and sweeps east to go over Europe. Canada is indeed part of the Western Hemisphere. Perhaps CNN meant simply over land, but many eclipses are best seen over water (the Earth's surface is mostly water, after all). A cruise ship would get a great view! Not that many cruise lines have Greenland on their route. ;-)

©2008 Phil Plait. All Rights Reserved.

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