How to View the Great American Eclipse Safely
The Great American Eclipse is less than 15 days away and while people may be tired of hearing about the influx of visitors and all the safety suggestions, they are imperative to enjoy what will be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
It is never safe to look directly at the sun, even if the sun is partially obscured. When watching the partial eclipse you must wear the approved eclipse glasses at all times if you want to view the sun. This also applies to the total eclipse, up until the time when the sun is completely and totally blocked.
NASA has released several tips to safely watch the eclipse:
Always supervise children using eclipse glasses or solar filters
Make sure you put your solar glasses on first before looking at the sun and do not remove them until you look away from the sun
Do not look at the partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device, even with your eclipse glasses on, the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury
If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on, you can put the eclipse glasses over them
Do not wear sunglasses, even if they are very dark, to look at the partial eclipse, they are not made for directly looking at the sun and will not protect your eyes
During the short time when the moon completely covers the sun, known as totality – which will be less than 2 minutes and 40 seconds in our local area – it is safe to look directly at the eclipse. However, it is crucial that you know when to take off and put on your eclipse glasses.
The sun provides important, and interesting, clues as to when totality will begin and end:
As the moon moves in front of the sun, there comes a time when several bright points of light shine around the moon’s edges. Known as Baily’s Beads, these are light rays from the sun streaming through the valleys along the moon’s horizon. As the moon continues to move, the extent of these beads diminish, until there is only one – a bright spot that, in combination with the atmosphere of the sun still visible around the moon, looks like a diamond ring. It is still not safe to look at the sun at this point! Only when that bright spot completely disappears can you safely look at the sun. Once the diamond disappears and there is no longer any direct sunlight coming toward you, you may look at the total eclipse safely without solar glasses. As the moon continues to move across the face of the sun, a crescent will begin to grow larger on the opposite side from where the Baily’s Beads shone at the beginning. This crescent is the lower atmosphere of the sun, beginning to peek out from behind the moon and is your signal to stop looking directly at the eclipse. Make sure you have safety glasses back on before the first flash of sunlight appears around the edges of the moon. Once your eyes are protected again, you may continue to watch the final stages of the eclipse as the end process mirrors the beginning: You will once again see the diamond ring and then the Baily’s Beads, before the entire sun is once again visible.
If you follow these tips you will be able to enjoy and safely watch all of the unique visual opportunities a total solar eclipse can offer.