On Monday, August 21, 2017, people across the United States will experience a total solar eclipse, in what is one of the most anticipated events of the year. While normal solar eclipses occur a couple of times each year, a total solar eclipse only happens about every 18 months. However, this kind of eclipse has not crossed the entire United States for over 90 years.
Total solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks the sun for up to three hours. The reason they are so rare and exciting for the public is that it usually takes, on average, 375 years for it to be seen in the same spot on Earth—basically making it a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of us. Because of this, organizations like NASA and NOOA are intensely promoting this total eclipse.
While only 14 states will get to experience a total solar eclipse, everyone in North America will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse. During a partial eclipse, the moon does not completely block out the light of the sun, showing a crescent-shaped disc in the sky, which is still a sight to behold.
While an eclipse always generates interest and curiosity, it is important to take safety measures during the experience. By the same principle that says you should not look directly at the sun, one should not look at the eclipse with the naked eye either. According to NASA, to see the eclipse for what it’s worth, one should only use special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers. Additionally, NASA warns that homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses are not safe for looking at the eclipse or the sun and could potentially cause eye damage.
Currently, there are various manufacturers that have certified eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standards. For more information on what type of viewers or glasses are best for you and where to find them, visit https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.
If one does not know how the eclipse will look like from their location, NASA has created the Eyes on the 2017 Eclipse Application, an interactive, web-based 3D simulation that shows a preview of the 2017 total eclipse by clicking anywhere on the Earth. Also, if one cannot be in the right place to see the total solar eclipse, NASA will be streaming the eclipse live on August 21st from NASA Television at https://www.nasa.gov/eclipselive. With so many resources available, Monday’s solar eclipse just cannot be missed.
By Kathleen Obrer