Steps to follow for safely watching a solar eclipse:
- Carefully look at your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
- Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
- Before looking up at the bright sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter-do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
- Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other similar devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
- Talk with an expert astronomer if you want to use a special solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
Find reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers
To purchase QUALITY solar eclipse glasses, check the American Astronomical Society (AAS) catalog of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers. NASA has recommended only four U.S. companies as reputable manufacturers of solar eclipse glasses: American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Even if you see a device with one of these manufacturers’ names on it, make sure that it isn’t fake or a knock-off. Knock-off Gucci bags are one thing. Knock-off solar eclipse glasses are a completely different level. Also, avoid using cash to purchase any eclipse devices as using a credit card offers some protection.
While it is very newsworthy and exciting that the United States will have the privilege of viewing the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, the phenomenon itself is not a rare occurrence as many of us have been led to believe. In fact, the opposite is true: on average, a total solar eclipse is visible from somewhere on the Earth’s surface roughly once every year and a half.
So why is everyone so excited about August 21, 2017?
Because, for us in the United States, it’s been awhile! The last time our country had the honor of witnessing this celestial show-of-shows, here’s what was happening in the United States:
- President Jimmy Carter was in office.
- We proudly sported alligator-embellished shirts while listening to “mix tapes” on our Sony Walkman.
- Bo Derek made a provocative fashion statement with her slow-motion blonde cornrows in the movie “10.”
- Rupert Holmes caused us to ponder our relationships with his song Escape (The Piña Colada Song).
- The terms smart phone and Google* didn’t yet exist.
In 1979, thirty-eight years ago, on February 26, a total eclipse of the Sun was visible on a path across the northwestern U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
This year, scientists predict that North America will be treated to this spectacular event on August 21st beginning with a path of first visibility in Salem, Oregon and ending with final visibility in Charleston, South Carolina.
On October 14, 2023, it is predicted that an annular solar eclipse will be visible from California to Florida.
According to scientists, the next total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States from Texas to Maine on April 8, 2024.
“For the first time since 1979, a total eclipse of the Sun is coming to the continental United States, and for the first time since 1918, it is crossing the country from coast to coast.”— American Astronomical Society article
What’s DIFFERENT about annular and total solar eclipses?
Considered less spectacular by most eclipse enthusiasts, during an annular eclipse, the moon is further away from the earth giving the appearance of the moon being smaller in the sky, and therefore not completely covering the Sun. This results in a ‘ring of fire’ where the Sun still emits direct light.
What’s the SAME about annular and total solar eclipses?
Neither phenomenon is safe to view with the naked eye.
While Florida is not in the “path of totality” for the August 21st total eclipse (we will experience only about 80% totality from our vantage point), do you think that means you will be safer, or more at risk? If you guessed more at risk, you are correct! Because we will only witness a partial eclipse, there will be harmful Sun rays for the duration of the event. PLEASE: keep your eclipse glasses on throughout the whole event and make sure they are ISO and CE-certified for safe viewing.
On August 21, ultraviolet light —which we can’t see— is what could literally sunburn your eyes. With every eclipse, doctors across the world report the reason a few people always end up going blind during an eclipse is that in the partial phase, the visible light is reduced enough that it’s not painful to look at, so people assume it’s safe. But there’s still plenty of UV, and that blinds them.
Even quick glances without proper protection during an eclipse are not safe; damage can occur within a short minute and a half, and not necessarily all at once. Taking quick peaks may seem wise, but it only adds cumulative exposure which is equally as damaging as prolonged exposure.
The bottom line is this: be wise, protect your eyes. As exciting as it is, the common phenomenon of a solar eclipse is not worth severely damaging —or completely losing— your sight.
When & Where To SeeThe Solar Eclipse
Keep in mind that ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, or homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun.