How many times did you say that when you were a kid wanting to take a peek at just one of your beautifully wrapped Christmas presents? That peek could spoil the surprise, but it wouldn’t physically harm you.
We have a very big event taking place on August 21st for which just a quick peek could be permanently damaging to your eyes. We are living at ground-zero for the best viewing of the upcoming total solar eclipse, but looking at it, even for a second or two, with unprotected eyes could cause irreparable damage to your eyes and even cause you to go blind. The problem is that there would be no pain involved so you wouldn’t know anything happened until you experienced vision difficulties.
Thousands if not millions of people will be flocking to locations all over the 14 states that are in the path of totality. We just happen to be one of those places. What is a solar eclipse and why is this one so special? A solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit coincides with the earth and sun allowing the moon to pass between the sun and earth in such a way that the sun is at least partially obscured. In this particular case the sun will be totally covered for a short period of 2 minutes and 40 seconds near Carbondale, Illinois when they all line up.That’s longer than any other place. The continental United States hasn’t had a total solar eclipse since 1979.
According to NASA the first point of contact with the eclipse will be at 9:05 am PDT at Lincoln Beach, Oregon. As they quote on their website ” Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.” The eclipse leaves the United States at 4:09 pm EDT.
There are many ways to safely look at the eclipse, but all of them involve using some kind of proven protection. According the the National Astronomical Association’s website “The following well-known telescope and solar-filter companies manufacture and/or sell eclipse glasses (sometimes called eclipse shades) and/or handheld solar viewers that have been verified by an accredited testing laboratory to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products. They are listed in alphabetical order; those with an asterisk (*) are based outside the United States.
Solar Filter Brands:
- American Paper Optics (Eclipser) / EclipseGlasses.com 2) APM Telescopes (Sunfilter Glasses)* 3) Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold Film* 4) Celestron (EclipSmart Glasses and Viewers) 5) DayStar (Solar Glasses) 6) Explore Scientific (Solar Eclipse Sun Catcher Glasses) 7) Lunt Solar Systems (SUNsafe SUNglasses) 8) Meade Instruments (EclipseView Glasses & Viewers) 9) Rainbow Symphony (Eclipse Shades) 10) Seymour Solar (Helios Glasses)
Here are some basic rules the Astronomical Society recommend:
- Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched, punctured, torn, or otherwise damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
- Always supervise children using solar filters.
- If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
- Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright Sun. After looking at the Sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the Sun.
- Do not look at the uneclipsed 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 handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays could 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, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device; note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.
- If you are inside 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, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.
- Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the Sun directly.
Once again remember to check the serial number and the manufacturer listed on the glasses you use to make sure they are the correct ones. Now you have the information you need to view the solar eclipse safely. It is up to you to make sure your eyes are properly protected so you can view the event confident you will be safe.
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