Tom Lynch, a member of the astronomy club Amateur Observers'...

Tom Lynch, a member of the astronomy club Amateur Observers' Society of New York, explains what will occur during the April 8 solar eclipse in a presentation at the Malverne Public Library in Malverne on March 23. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

When the moon passes between the sun and the earth on April 8, many Long Islanders will be watching, some from schools and parks across the region, where the eclipse will be partial. Others will view it from hundreds of miles away on the “path of totality,” a narrow swath of the United States stretching from Texas to Maine, where the sky will turn dark.

“I can’t explain how weird it is, and how unsettling,” said Tom Lynch, a retired accountant from Lynbrook and member of the Amateur Observers' Society of New York. He plans to view it from south of Dallas, a place he chose because of the likelihood of clear skies.

Lynch traveled to Wyoming in 2017 to see the last total eclipse visible from the United States. “You could actually feel the temperature dropping” as the sun’s warmth ceased, he said. The world around him turned copper, then dark but for the light on the horizon. Full eclipse “was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. The sun looked “like a big black hole.”

Long Island will experience about 90% of the eclipse. Although most of the sun will be blocked, experts have repeatedly warned that people should not look at the sun without special eclipse viewing glasses. Available for purchase in some stores or free at locations that include the welcome center off the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills. Their lenses are tinted so dark as to be useless for anything less than a burning star. 

SUNY Old Westbury, which has an eclipse countdown clock on its website, and other schools are planning viewing parties. The Long Island director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, George Gorman, who oversees parks and beaches in the region, said his office planned viewing events at more than a half-dozen parks from Jones Beach to Montauk.

The eclipse will be total upstate, and officials have said they expected hundreds of thousands of visitors to cities from Jamesport to Plattsburgh. Upstate campgrounds are booked solid and few hotel rooms are left, they said. The three Amtrak trains running from Manhattan's Moynihan Train Halto Buffalo on April 7 sold out weeks before the eclipse. 

In a news conference this week, various Buffalo Bills players appeared on video warning people not to look directly at the sun. From Gov. Kathy Hochul's office, Kathryn Garcia, director of state operations, waxed about the “sun’s wispy outer atmosphere” and a “breathtakingly beautiful … 360-degree sunset.” Such a thing has not happened in New York since 1925 and will not happen again until 2079.

Officials said they had spent the past 18 months planning to ensure bathroom capacity, cell service and road safety.

Garcia and Jackie Bray, the state’s Homeland Security commissioner, said visitors should top off their fuel tanks before the eclipse, and travel with food, water and a blanket in their vehicles. More advice for those visiting upstate: don’t park your vehicle on the road shoulder for viewing, because emergency vehicles may need to get through; don’t wander unprepared into the backcountry in search of a viewing spot; consider wearing reds and greens, colors that will enhance the Purkinje effect, a visual phenomenon in which colors appear to shift with illumination. Also, “pack your patience,” Bray said. “You will be in traffic for several hours.”

In an interview this week, Bray said some of her advice applied to those viewing from Long Island and other downstate regions, too: “We really don't want people pulling over on the side of the road. That puts other people in danger.”

The viewing party at SUNY Old Westbury, which is building its physics program and will graduate its first majors in the subject next spring, is for incoming students and some area high schoolers, with snacks like mooncakes,  telescopes, binoculars and viewing glasses. 

Matthew Lippert, a physicist who specializes in string theory, said Old Westbury’s educators saw in the eclipse “an opportunity to connect with people and teach them a little bit about astronomy and physics.” It also is convenient in that it is “one of the few astronomical events that happens during the day,” he said. In addition to the viewing party, the school is sending three charter buses with about 150 people to SUNY Oswego, on Lake Ontario, to view the total eclipse. The drive takes about 5½ hours.

At Camera Concepts and Telescope Solutions, a Stony Brook shop that bills itself as Long Island's largest telescope distributor — there are not many — customers are talking about the eclipse “every day,” manager Bill Keenan said. “Glasses are selling really well,” as are binoculars, which can be used with solar filters. The glasses cost $4.99 each, the binoculars $40 and up, he said.

Keenan said many of his customers planned to travel to the path of totality. “They’ve got hotels, campers, they’ve got a whole plan,” Keenan said. He plans to spend the eclipse at Southold’s Custer Institute, the oldest public observatory on Long Island.

Jason Cousins, president of the Amateur Observers Society, said the group would host a “solar jamboree” for the public on the day of the eclipse on the Custer’s grounds.

As many as three quarters of the club’s 350 members plan to travel to the path of totality, said Cousins, who lives in Mineola and is a project executive for the construction company Posillico. Cousins said he planned to go to Niagara Falls. When a total eclipse occurs within driving distance, “most of us, we go when we can,” he said. For skywatchers who don’t chase eclipses around the globe, this one “is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said.

The Custer Institute and Observatory’s eclipse event sold out several weeks ahead of the eclipse, though people can visit this Saturday or next to buy viewing glasses, said vice president Alan Cousins, who is not related to Jason Cousins. Most of Cousins’ skywatching acquaintances plan to travel to the path of totality, Cousins said. He will decide whether to travel to northern Vermont or stay on Long Island based on weather in the days before the eclipse, he said.

Dr. Joel Moskowitz, an obstetrician and member of both the Astronomical Society of Long Island and the Amateur Observers, won't stay close to home. Moskowitz, of Roslyn Heights and Boca Raton, Florida, will watch this eclipse in Kerrville, Texas, not far from the Mexico border.

Moskowitz has chased eclipses in Siberia, Easter Island, Kenya and Bolivia, where he and his companions discovered that their chosen viewing spot also was a llama bedding spot. The llamas treated the eclipse as nighttime and did not seem to mind the interlopers. Moskowitz said he had seen 20 total eclipses, three annular and two partial. An annular eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and earth but is so far from the earth it does not completely block the sun. A partial eclipse happens when the sun, moon and earth are not perfectly lined up, so only part of the sun will appear to be covered. 

“I’m a man of science, but you can immediately understand why ancient peoples reacted” in awe and sometimes fear, Moskowitz said. “Getting very dark, seeing the sun disappear before your eyes in the middle of the day, is something that we’re not genetically programmed to see.”

When the moon passes between the sun and the earth on April 8, many Long Islanders will be watching, some from schools and parks across the region, where the eclipse will be partial. Others will view it from hundreds of miles away on the “path of totality,” a narrow swath of the United States stretching from Texas to Maine, where the sky will turn dark.

“I can’t explain how weird it is, and how unsettling,” said Tom Lynch, a retired accountant from Lynbrook and member of the Amateur Observers' Society of New York. He plans to view it from south of Dallas, a place he chose because of the likelihood of clear skies.

Lynch traveled to Wyoming in 2017 to see the last total eclipse visible from the United States. “You could actually feel the temperature dropping” as the sun’s warmth ceased, he said. The world around him turned copper, then dark but for the light on the horizon. Full eclipse “was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. The sun looked “like a big black hole.”

Long Island will experience about 90% of the eclipse. Although most of the sun will be blocked, experts have repeatedly warned that people should not look at the sun without special eclipse viewing glasses. Available for purchase in some stores or free at locations that include the welcome center off the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills. Their lenses are tinted so dark as to be useless for anything less than a burning star. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Schools, state parks and other sites across Long Island will hold viewing parties for the April 8 eclipse, which will reach about 90% coverage at 3:27 p.m.
  • Some of Long Island’s most avid skywatchers plan to travel to the “path of totality” — where the moon’s shadow completely blocks the sun — either upstate or as far away as Texas.
  • Special glasses for viewing the eclipse are available for purchase at some stores or free at the Long Island Welcome Center off the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills.
Amateur Observers' Society of New York member Tom Lynch models...

Amateur Observers' Society of New York member Tom Lynch models the special eclipse viewing glasses needed for the April 8 event. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

SUNY Old Westbury, which has an eclipse countdown clock on its website, and other schools are planning viewing parties. The Long Island director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, George Gorman, who oversees parks and beaches in the region, said his office planned viewing events at more than a half-dozen parks from Jones Beach to Montauk.

The eclipse will be total upstate, and officials have said they expected hundreds of thousands of visitors to cities from Jamesport to Plattsburgh. Upstate campgrounds are booked solid and few hotel rooms are left, they said. The three Amtrak trains running from Manhattan's Moynihan Train Halto Buffalo on April 7 sold out weeks before the eclipse. 

In a news conference this week, various Buffalo Bills players appeared on video warning people not to look directly at the sun. From Gov. Kathy Hochul's office, Kathryn Garcia, director of state operations, waxed about the “sun’s wispy outer atmosphere” and a “breathtakingly beautiful … 360-degree sunset.” Such a thing has not happened in New York since 1925 and will not happen again until 2079.

18 months of planning

Officials said they had spent the past 18 months planning to ensure bathroom capacity, cell service and road safety.

Garcia and Jackie Bray, the state’s Homeland Security commissioner, said visitors should top off their fuel tanks before the eclipse, and travel with food, water and a blanket in their vehicles. More advice for those visiting upstate: don’t park your vehicle on the road shoulder for viewing, because emergency vehicles may need to get through; don’t wander unprepared into the backcountry in search of a viewing spot; consider wearing reds and greens, colors that will enhance the Purkinje effect, a visual phenomenon in which colors appear to shift with illumination. Also, “pack your patience,” Bray said. “You will be in traffic for several hours.”

In an interview this week, Bray said some of her advice applied to those viewing from Long Island and other downstate regions, too: “We really don't want people pulling over on the side of the road. That puts other people in danger.”

The viewing party at SUNY Old Westbury, which is building its physics program and will graduate its first majors in the subject next spring, is for incoming students and some area high schoolers, with snacks like mooncakes,  telescopes, binoculars and viewing glasses. 

Matthew Lippert, a physicist who specializes in string theory, said Old Westbury’s educators saw in the eclipse “an opportunity to connect with people and teach them a little bit about astronomy and physics.” It also is convenient in that it is “one of the few astronomical events that happens during the day,” he said. In addition to the viewing party, the school is sending three charter buses with about 150 people to SUNY Oswego, on Lake Ontario, to view the total eclipse. The drive takes about 5½ hours.

At Camera Concepts and Telescope Solutions, a Stony Brook shop that bills itself as Long Island's largest telescope distributor — there are not many — customers are talking about the eclipse “every day,” manager Bill Keenan said. “Glasses are selling really well,” as are binoculars, which can be used with solar filters. The glasses cost $4.99 each, the binoculars $40 and up, he said.

Traveling to the path of totality

Keenan said many of his customers planned to travel to the path of totality. “They’ve got hotels, campers, they’ve got a whole plan,” Keenan said. He plans to spend the eclipse at Southold’s Custer Institute, the oldest public observatory on Long Island.

Jason Cousins, president of the Amateur Observers Society, said the group would host a “solar jamboree” for the public on the day of the eclipse on the Custer’s grounds.

As many as three quarters of the club’s 350 members plan to travel to the path of totality, said Cousins, who lives in Mineola and is a project executive for the construction company Posillico. Cousins said he planned to go to Niagara Falls. When a total eclipse occurs within driving distance, “most of us, we go when we can,” he said. For skywatchers who don’t chase eclipses around the globe, this one “is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event,” he said.

The Custer Institute and Observatory’s eclipse event sold out several weeks ahead of the eclipse, though people can visit this Saturday or next to buy viewing glasses, said vice president Alan Cousins, who is not related to Jason Cousins. Most of Cousins’ skywatching acquaintances plan to travel to the path of totality, Cousins said. He will decide whether to travel to northern Vermont or stay on Long Island based on weather in the days before the eclipse, he said.

Chasing eclipses

Dr. Joel Moskowitz, an obstetrician and member of both the Astronomical Society of Long Island and the Amateur Observers, won't stay close to home. Moskowitz, of Roslyn Heights and Boca Raton, Florida, will watch this eclipse in Kerrville, Texas, not far from the Mexico border.

Moskowitz has chased eclipses in Siberia, Easter Island, Kenya and Bolivia, where he and his companions discovered that their chosen viewing spot also was a llama bedding spot. The llamas treated the eclipse as nighttime and did not seem to mind the interlopers. Moskowitz said he had seen 20 total eclipses, three annular and two partial. An annular eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and earth but is so far from the earth it does not completely block the sun. A partial eclipse happens when the sun, moon and earth are not perfectly lined up, so only part of the sun will appear to be covered. 

“I’m a man of science, but you can immediately understand why ancient peoples reacted” in awe and sometimes fear, Moskowitz said. “Getting very dark, seeing the sun disappear before your eyes in the middle of the day, is something that we’re not genetically programmed to see.”

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