Whether you’re a hardcore eclipse enthusiast, who’s already tracking when the next eclipse will be (and where) or simply someone who wants to take advantage of seeing this remarkable phenomenon, you want to be sure that you’re taking steps to keep you safe during the event. Like many natural wonders, there is an element of danger — looking at the sun straight on can cause solar retinopathy, or permanent eye damage. Recovering from solar retinopathy (when the sun damages the retina) can take anywhere from a month to a year. Even viewing through a telescope, camera lens, or binoculars is dangerous and not advised. For the safest viewing experience, it’s recommended that you purchase solar eclipse glasses. Indeed, NASA says the only safe way to view a solar eclipse is to use solar eclipse glasses. However, with the right eclipse viewing glasses, you’ll be able to witness a truly spectacular natural event.
Tell Me a Little More About Solar Eclipses
During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the earth and the sun, covering the sun. There are two types of solar eclipses — a partial eclipse and a total eclipse. When the moon’s penumbra (faint outer shadow) hits the sun, it’s a partial eclipse for the region viewing it. When the umbra (the moon’s dark inner shadow) covers the sun, it’s a total eclipse.
Generally, a total eclipse is only seen from the same area once every 375 years or so and its path of totality is about 120 kilometers wide. The next solar eclipse expected to happen will occur on August 21, 2017, and will spend about an hour and a half crossing the United States. It’s been almost 40 years since the last total solar eclipse in the United States.
Why Should I Watch?
A total eclipse isn’t terribly common and taking advantage of the opportunity to see one is always an amazing experience. It will certainly prove to be an unforgettable experience. If you’re a parent or a teacher, it can be a great “teachable moment” and may spark discussions with children about science, our planet, and our solar system. It may even prompt you to do some brushing up on eclipses and the sun and moon yourself!
With the right kind of solar glasses, you can take in the beauty and wonder of the eclipse while it lasts — which isn’t terribly long! You want to be prepared for the event ahead of time. You’ll also be joining with thousands of other people — scientists, hobbyists, teachers, parents, kids, and others who gather to watch this incredible event. There are also plenty of other activities planned around the event — some planned by NASA or other agencies — but your town or community may even organize some kind of event linked to the eclipse. It’s an opportunity to come together, foster learning, and be witness to a once in a lifetime kind of experience.
How to Stay Safe With the Right Eye Protection For Solar Eclipse Viewing
Safety first! You’ll want to get solar eclipse glasses for the event, as mentioned above, and you should get them from a certified company, that meets the international standard. So far, there are four manufacturers who can verify that their solar eclipse glasses do so: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Getting them from a company who does not have that guarantee can result in shoddy or knock off glasses that can prove dangerous for your eyesight.
Make sure that your glasses are intact — no scratches or damages — and if they are, get rid of them and get a new pair. Make sure you’re supervising children who are using them and follow the directions carefully.
Do keep in mind that even with solar eclipse glasses, you shouldn’t try and view the sun through devices like cameras, telescopes, etc., since the sun can damage the filter. You should talk to an expert astronomer if you want to use these items. It’s only safe to remove your glasses once the total eclipse has occurred or it’s completely over.
Keep yourself safe as you enjoy the solar eclipse with family and friends this August!