Amateur astronomer makes plans for eclipse

Words cannot express the delight amateur astronomer and Wilton resident Martin Hamar feels about watching solar eclipses.

“It is an incredible experience. The moon starts to cover the sun, the lights start to dim, it gets to a deep twilight, you can feel the temperature fall, the birds tune up their songs and you can hear them. It’s an awesome thing to see, and it’s really hard to put into words,” said Hamar, 81, who has been watching the heavenly orbs since he was a boy, using a homemade telescope made from post-war surplus lenses.

“I don’t care who your are or how blasé you are — when you see a total eclipse of the sun, it is just wow,” he said.

The next solar eclipse is set for Monday, Aug. 21, and Hamar is ready for action.

Wilton will only get to see about 70% of the eclipse, but millions of Americans live in regions where it will be seen completely, and Hamar plans to be there with them.

Hamar will be one of many Americans traveling to see the eclipse from a place of totality. He will be going to Nebraska.

On Aug. 21, he said, people can start looking for the eclipse at 1:45 p.m., and 2:45 p.m. should be the peak.

“Forty years ago was the last time it was visible in the U.S.,” said Hamar.

Solar eclipses happen about every 18 months somewhere in the world, but a total eclipse like the one coming has not been seen in the United States since the 1970s.

“So it’s a relatively big deal for the United States,” said Hamar.

Important advice Hamar has to share is to never look at the eclipse or the sun with your naked eyes. Sunglasses won’t help either, but a pair of solar eclipse viewing glasses will.

“Fortunately, they are easy to get,” said Hamar.

“Go on Amazon and find a zillion choices of solar glasses. The cheapest ones run a buck or two. They sell them in sets of five or 10. Don’t try with anything else. You really have to be very careful. If you try to look at the sun with the naked eye you’ll get serious damage.”

If you don’t buy the special glasses, you can do it the old-fashioned way and poke a pinhole in a piece of paper, and put another piece in the shadow. Then you can watch the reflection, shaded by the moon.

Does the eclipse portend a change of some kind?

“It really doesn’t mean anything, It’s just a happenstance,” Hamar said, discounting any esoteric reading of the event.

“The moon is inclined to earth orbit, so it’s only when crossing plain of earth orbit you get conditions for eclipse. Otherwise there would be eclipse every full moon. To see it in totality is really something and you understand how it had a major effect on world events, like battles. Just to watch this thing at totality is incredible — it really is something.”

Hamar kept astronomy as a hobby all his life. His professional life was owning and operating the Hamar Laser Instruments, Inc. in Danbury, which just had its 50th anniversary, making precise laser alignment equipment.