Solar Eclipse 2017: View it Safely


By Kate Stone

Out of the sixty-two total solar eclipses that happened during the twentieth century, only eleven were visible from the continental United States, and only two of those eclipses crossed all of the US. The total solar eclipse that will be visible in North America on Monday, August 21, 2017, will stretch from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, a path quite similar to the one happened on June 8, 1918, which crossed the United States from Washington State to Florida.

In a little bit less than a month, the moon will completely block the sun’s bright face for up to two minutes and 40 seconds, turning day into night and making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona—the sun’s outer atmosphere. A solar eclipse is one of nature’s most awesome sights. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well to anyone within a roughly 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina.

How to view the 2017 solar eclipse safely

A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime.

  1. Solar Eclipse 2017: View it Safely
    May 21, 2012: solar eclipse seen by the TOKYO SKY TREE. Photo by Nakae.

    For the sake of your eyes, never look directly at the sun. This cannot be overstated. Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.

  2. The only safe way to look directly at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. According to NASA, four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Always inspect your solar filter before use; if it is scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters. Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter—do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  3. Do not look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer—the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  4. If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, and replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.
  5. An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. With your back to the sun, look at the shadow of your hands on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse.

—This information is brought to you by our friends at NASA.

Featured image by Michail Kirkov.

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