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Health, Science & Tech

Look Skyward, Pittsburgh: Meteor Shower, Partial Solar Eclipse Expected This Week

The Pittsburgh sky has a busy schedule this week, with a meteor shower tonight and a partial solar eclipse Thursday.

That’s according to Dan Malerbo, Buhl Planetarium and Observatory program development coordinator, who said the best time to watch the Orionid meteor shower is between midnight and dawn Tuesday and away from the city lights.

“Under some clear skies you could probably see up to 20 meteors per hour,” Malerbo said. “These meteors radiate, they come out of direction from Orion the Hunter, up by his bright star, Betelgeuse, from that area of the sky.”

Orion can be found in the eastern sky.

Malerbo said the sky will light up with bolides – or very bright shooting stars – but don’t bother searching for meteorites afterwards.

“What you’re looking at is a small grain of sand, a dust particle burning up as it enters the atmosphere,” Malerbo said. “And that grain of sand will ionize and burn up within the first 10 miles of the atmosphere.”

On Thursday, the partial eclipse will last in the Pittsburgh area from 5:46 p.m. to sunset at 6:27 p.m. according to Malerbo.

“A partial solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth,” Malerbo said. “So the moon’s going to take just a small ‘bite’ out of the sun.”

He suggested spectators watch the eclipse using eclipse glasses, which resemble 3-D glasses and work as a filter to block out ultra-violet and other harmful rays.

“Whenever you’re looking at a solar eclipse, eye protection is always paramount,” Malerbo said. “Never look at the sun with the unprotected eyes.”

Staring into the sun can cause headaches as well as permanent damage to eyesight, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Other safe viewing options include welder’s glass or even a pinhole camera made with a shoebox.

“You get a pinhole on one end, make a small pinhole and put a while piece of paper on the opposite end of the box, cut a small hole so you can look at the little while screen you’ve put up,” Malerbo said. “Aim it at the sun, and the sun will project its image onto the little white screen that you have on the other end of the shoebox.”

The National Weather Service is currently calling for cloudy skies tonight and partly cloudy skies Thursday afternoon.