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Talking totality

The 2017 eclipse is going to be a spectacular show. Here is some guidance from a pro.
This year may bring your life’s most astonishing experience.

In August, for the first time in nearly four decades, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the mainland United States. Most backyard astronomers have never seen one. No surprise — they’re a rare event, and expensive thanks to equipment and travel concerns. For any spot on Earth, totality happens once every 360 years on average. Some places, like Los Angeles, will wait more than a millennium.

Everyone’s seen photos. The image of a black Moon surrounded by the solar corona is familiar. But is it merely a lovely spectacle like a lunar eclipse or a nice comet? Only when viewed in person does the observer realize that this is the most wondrous event in his or her entire life.

One reason is that the eye perceives gorgeous detail the camera can’t capture. In photos, the diamond ring is a large blob on the Sun’s edge. Photography grossly overexposes it, causing a “flaring” effect. But the eye sees something else entirely: a bizarre, unforgettable pinpoint of exquisite brilliance.

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