On August 21, the United States will be directly in the path of a total solar eclipse. While total solar eclipses have touched portions of the country, the last time a total eclipse crossed the entire country was in 1918. Needless to say, stargazers are extremely excited.
While the whole country will catch a glimpse of the eclipse, some areas will experience total darkness for almost three full minutes. If you’re in that path, you’ll see a true wonder of nature.
Before you go out and observe this eclipse, scientists offer some words of warning so you don’t damage your eyesight. There are some rules that you and your family should follow when viewing this incredible phenomenon.
The path for best viewing will begin just south of Portland, Oregon. From there, the path travels through southern Idaho into the Boise area. It will then travel to Wyoming, go over Nebraska, then travel southeast. It will pass over Kansas City and St. Louis, with the greatest duration of total eclipse (two minutes, 40 seconds) just a few miles southeast of St. Louis in rural Illinois. It will then pass through Tennessee and into South Carolina. If you’re looking to get the best glimpse of the eclipse, travel to any of those places for a great view.
If you do plan on viewing this eclipse, the most important rule, scientists say, is to never stare directly at a partial eclipse. If any part of the sun is visible, you are damaging your eyes just as if you were staring directly at the sun. When the total eclipse is occurring, you can look directly at it. Once the moon begins moving and part of the sun is visible again, look away.
To view the eclipse safely, scientists recommend wearing eclipse glasses. The glasses have extremely powerful filters that are magnitudes darker than your typical sunglasses. This will protect your eyes, giving you a full glimpse of nature’s majesty.
For those who plan to bring binoculars or a camera, it’s important to note that these lenses won’t protect your eyes. You’ll need special filters specifically made for your piece of equipment. Using eclipse sunglasses with a pair of binoculars, a telescope, camera, etc., will ultimately result in eye damage. It is recommended that you speak with an astronomer or safety expert before purchasing a filter for your equipment to ensure safety.
If you don’t want to buy sunglasses to view the eclipse, you can look at it indirectly with a pinhole camera. This is a small hole that is pointed at the sun and reflected on a blank piece of cardboard. You can view the path of the moon over the sun via the reflection against the cardboard, then look at the sun when the reflection is completely blocked. For those who want to see the eclipse directly, the pinhole camera won’t work. You’ll need solar eclipse glasses.
When buying these glasses, make sure they are new glasses that meet the current safety standards of ISO 12312-2. Some older glasses may have different standards that were acceptable at the time they were created but aren’t today. For your safety, be certain that any glasses you buy meet this important standard.
Once you have your glasses, travel to the path of totality mentioned above and enjoy the brilliant spectacle! There won’t be another quite like it for about 100 years.