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CNN Today

New York Offers Great View of Christmas Eclipse

Aired December 25, 2000 - 1:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Our astrophysicists Frank Summers has got his cell phone working, apparently.

Frank, did you get that cell phone for Christmas?

FRANK SUMMERS, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM: No, we've had it for about a year; it sometimes does these things.

WATERS: It's comforting to know that even an astrophysicist can have trouble with his cell phone.

You were telling about why you were in cell phone -- why you were in Central Park observing the solar eclipse, and I couldn't hear you too well, but I imagine it's because of the skyscrapers in Manhattan and this gives you a clear view of things.

SUMMERS: That's right. With the tall buildings in Manhattan -- and the streets are aligned from the southwest to the northeast, so that you have to come out to a park. And it's also a nice meeting place; we've got thousands of people who have come past here, and shown them the eclipse.

WATERS: And how are you observing the eclipse? You're not looking directly at it, I assume.

SUMMERS: Of course; you can't look directly at the sun ever, even -- especially during an eclipse. But we have these paper glasses that have Mylar lenses and the Mylar's dark enough to block out everything except for the sun. We also have a couple telescopes here and we've got special filters on the telescopes that allow us to examine the sun and look at it safely.

WATERS: Now, as I understand it, this partial solar eclipse, which I saw described somewhere today as a mildly rare celestial event is able to be seen anywhere in the United States today if, indeed, the skies are clear.

SUMMERS: Well, it's already over on the West Coast and it's over on Mountain and Central times. But right now, at this time, it's only still visible here in the Eastern Coast. They got about a 20 to 10 percent eclipse in Los Angeles, about a 30 percent eclipse in Seattle, and we're getting about a 50 percent eclipse here in New York.

WATERS: And why are we so -- I assume you're fascinated by this, you're an astrophysicists -- but why are we all so fascinated by solar eclipses?

SUMMERS: Well, I think what an eclipse does is it reminds you that our daily lives -- our work and our family and our problems are actually part of a much bigger thing. We're part of the solar system and it's not often that this holds this many truths on our lives and we get to see that, you know, we've got the moon orbiting the earth and the earth orbiting the sun. And here is evidence of that much larger picture.

WATERS: Before I let you go, I was considering one thing today; we have some cosmonauts up on the International Space Station who will be able to observe this, will they not? And how will their view be different from ours?

SUMMERS: Well, their view will be different in that they're orbiting around the earth at a very, very rapid rate. So they'll actually going in and out of the moon's shadow several times as they orbit around the earth. So they'll actually get multiple chances to look at it as they orbit through the moon's shadow. But otherwise, it'll be pretty much the same.

WATERS: Well, enjoy your Christmas viewing. A happy holiday to you, and thanks so much for taking time out to talk with us.

Franks Summers on his cell phone from Central Park; he's an astrophysicists with the Hayden Planetarium.

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