A total solar eclipse is happening on August 21, 2017 and if you live in the United States you’ll get the best possible view of this incredible event.
But even with the sun being mostly covered by the moon, it’s not safe to look directly at the eclipse without proper safety precautions.
Here’s what you need to know on how to watch the eclipse safely, where the best places to see it are, and all the trivia about the 2017 total solar eclipse.
What Is a Total Solar Eclipse?
A total solar eclipse happens when the moon’s disk entirely covers the sun, resulting in momentary darkness and a sudden temperature change for the affected area.
The moon is way smaller than the sun, so much so that when comparing diameter, the sun is roughly 400 times larger than the moon. So how can the moon eclipse the sun? Since it’s much closer to our planet, it lines up perfectly to cover the sun’s diameter.
The Eclipse’s Path of Totality Is Where You Need to Be
The 2017 eclipse’s path of totality will cross the United States of America as seen in the image below - if you’re on this path, the shadow created by the moon on Earth’s surface will cause the day to turn into twilight in mere seconds.
The path of totality will cross the country on a diagonal line, passing over Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Watchers outside this path of totality will see a partial solar eclipse - in which the moon will pass over the sun, but won’t cover it entirely. This also won’t result in the day turning into night for a few minutes.
The 2017 eclipse is predicted to last about 2 minutes and 40 seconds in total, but this duration can vary greatly depending on where you’re positioned - the closer you are to the edge of the totality zone, the shorter the duration will be.
To find out exactly where you need to be, NASA has detailed maps showing exactly where the path of totality will pass over for every state.
To know what time the phases of the eclipse will take place, check out NASA’s interactive map (simply click on where you are to get more info).
How to View the Eclipse Safely
Even when the sun is partially covered by the moon, looking directly at it can cause severe eye damage and blindness. Hence why you need special protective glasses to view the eclipse safely - they’re called solar viewing glasses.
Sunglasses do not replace solar viewing glasses!
When purchasing these special glasses, you need to make sure they meet the international standard recommended by scientific organizations, as purchasing low-quality solar viewing glasses could be extremely harmful.
Here are a few trusted brands that manufacture solar viewing glasses:
- American Paper Optics
- Meade Instruments
- Lunt Solar Systems
- Rainbow Symphony
- Click here for the entire list!
It is safe enough to look at the eclipse with the naked eye only when the sun is completely covered by the moon, but even then, you should always have your safety glasses with you and look away at any sign of eye discomfort.
If you’re outside the path of totality, you should observe the event with safety glasses at all times.
Can I DIY a Solar Viewer?
Yes, but you should be very careful to pick your method and be sure it’s safe to use before looking at the sun, after all, failing to be cautious with this could cause you to go blind.
Be sure your method is safe before using, and if in doubt, opt for a certified pair of solar viewer glasses instead.
Here’s a tutorial taken from NASA on how to build your own solar eclipse and sun viewer.
When Is the Next Total Solar Eclipse After 2017?
If you miss the 2017 solar eclipse, don’t worry, another total solar eclipse is passing over North America on April 8th, 2024. That’s more than enough time to plan ahead!
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