There was a letter to the editor that said a person could use tree leaves for viewing the coming solar eclipse. Could you describe more about how that would work, and is it safe?
— Jack, Medford
You can actually use the leaves of a tree for viewing the solar eclipse — but it has to be done the right way, with your back turned to the sun, according to Dr. John Welling of Medical Eye Center in Medford.
It also requires a little advance planning. Before the eclipse, look for a tree that casts a shadow on a smooth, light surface in the mid-morning. Good surfaces include sidewalks and light-colored walls and garage doors.
Our eclipse-savvy letter writer, Ira Edwards of Medford, also recommends trees that allow many spots of light to filter through.
The eclipse will occur at about 10:17 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21, although the moon will begin covering the face of the sun about an hour earlier. Remember, we'll see a partial eclipse rather than a total eclipse here in the Rogue Valley because we're outside the path of totality, which occurs farther north in Oregon.
When the moon is partially covering the sun, stand facing away from the sun and look at the shadows cast by your chosen tree. Holes between the leaves will act as pinpoint lenses, casting multiple black-and-white images of the eclipse in the shadows. You will see dozens if not hundreds of crescents on the smooth, light-colored surface you've picked out.
To see an online photo of these crescents cast on a road, see petapixel.com/2012/05/21/crescent-shaped-projections-through-tree-leaves-during-the-solar-eclipse/.
YouTube also has plenty of videos of this phenomenon. To see a video of eclipse images cast onto a white garage door, see www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_L1xiy5260.
Welling reminds everyone to never look at the sun during the eclipse without protection, as eye damage can be virtually instantaneous, leading to temporary or permanent vision damage.
Inexpensive, certified eclipse-viewing glasses are available for a buck or two while supplies last at locations around the Rogue Valley, including Medical Eye Center and Northwest Outdoor Store in Medford, and Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland.
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