Safely Viewing This Month’s Solar Eclipse
On August 21, for the first time in nearly 100 years, a total solar eclipse will travel from coast to coast across the contiguous United States. While we won’t be able to see the total eclipse from Utah, we will be able to witness (weather permitting) a partial eclipse. Here is everything you need to know, including (most importantly) how to keep your eyes safe.
We’ll be treated to a partial solar eclipse, where the moon will cover the sun by approximately 90 percent at its peak. To view the total eclipse, we would need to drive about three-and-a-half hours north to the Idaho Falls area (or anywhere along the eclipse’s path of totality).
The eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, 2017. It will begin at approximately 10:13 a.m., reach its maximum coverage at approximately 11:33 a.m., and end just before 1:00 p.m.
At no point during the partial eclipse should you look directly at the sun. Looking directly at the eclipse, as intriguing as it is, can cause permanent damage to your retina. Sunglasses, no matter how dark, cannot prevent this damage from occurring.
Fortunately, there are five manufacturers approved by the American Astronomical Society who produce eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers that meet the standard for protecting our eyes so that we can safely view the eclipse:
- American Paper Optics
- Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only)
- Rainbow Symphony
- Thousand Oaks Optical
- TSE 17
Please ensure that your solar glasses are from one of the approved manufacturers and have the ISO icon with reference to ISO 12312-2, the international standard for these glasses that allows direct viewing of the sun.
It is also important to note that you should not use any solar lenses that have scratches or wrinkles, or are more than three years old.
If you are planning to photograph the eclipse, or view it through a telescope, you will need a solar filter for your lens to prevent damage to your eyes and camera.
Be patient! These eclipses take a long time to develop. If you only have a few minutes to spare, plan it around the time of maximum coverage, 11:33 a.m.
If you have a solar lens filter for your SLR camera or telescope, then photographs of the eclipse are entirely possible (don’t forget to use a tripod!). If you are only equipped with a smartphone, or don’t have a solar filter, try looking at the patches of sunlight that reach the ground under the shade of a tree. They’ll all be crescent shaped and can make for great viewing and interesting photographs.
If you don’t have approved eclipse glasses, or you want to do a little science project with your children, create pinhole projection. Punch a small hole – it only needs to be a couple millimeters in diameter – into a piece of cardboard or paper. Make it as round as possible. Then hold up your pinhole shield and look at the crescent-shaped shadow projected beneath it.
However you choose to view the solar eclipse, stay safe and enjoy this remarkable natural phenomenon!