Preparing for the Total Solar Eclipse
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three months, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming total solar eclipse. On Monday, August 21, 2017, for the first time in about a century, a total solar eclipse (not to be confused with an annular or “ring of fire” eclipse) will be visible from across the United States. Starting in the morning on the Pacific beaches of Oregon and traveling in an arc across the continent to South Carolina, this rare celestial event will last only a mere 1 hour and 33 minutes. If you’ve been paying attention, there has been a lot of commotion around people preparing for the eclipse in a lot of grandiose ways for a relatively small amount of time. Everyone will feel differently about whether or not they want to see it, but if you’re making the trip to be under the Path of Totality, there are some things you’ll want to know as you begin preparing for the eclipse.
Pro Tip: Don’t Look at the Sun
That shouldn’t be something you need to be reminded of, but allow us to remind you once more- looking at the sun can cause irreparable damage to your eyesight. So, you know, don’t do that. But for people who want to get to view the eclipse first hand there are ways to make that happen safely. Mostly, people will be using a pair of disposable eclipse glasses that will make watching the eclipse safe. Here are some things to know about eclipse glasses that could help you have a safe and enjoyable eclipse viewing experience.
- Yes, You Need the Special Glasses Eclipse glasses block out all but 0.003% of visible light along with most ultraviolet and infrared waves as well. Your Ray Bans do not. Eclipse glasses typically even have a thin layer of aluminum, chromium, or silver on them to accomplish this and nothing in the consumer market short of the darkest available welder’s shields (shade 12 or higher) will act as a replacement.
- Beware of Counterfeiters This is terrible, but the huge demand has meant that there are a bunch of bogus shades out there. Keep in mind to check for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification labeled, “ISO 12312-2,” or to rely only on the list of approved eclipse glasses vendors of the American Astronomical Society.
- This Goes for Viewing Devices, Too Just because some people seem to be unclear on this, you need to protect your eyes even when looking through devices, too. In fact, at the risk of sounding condescending, telescopes and binoculars magnify images. That effect will only amplify the damage done to your eyes if you aren’t protected.
No More Glasses? Make a Light Box!
It’s very possibly, likely even, that if you’re just starting this process that the only eclipse glasses available to you will be either out of stock or inordinately expensive. Fear not! You can get your DIY on with a light box that will still provide you with a perfect way to enjoy the eclipse safely. Making a pinhole projector, as they are also known, is so simple that there are some amusingly basic how-to guides out there. Seriously though, anything with a hole in it (a colander, a piece of paper, your thumb and forefinger) that casts a shadow onto a white background will do. For a more detailed, yet still remarkably easy, how-to guide on making a light box for the eclipse, check out this video below.
Make Haste Or Wait Until Next Time
There are an estimated 12 million Americans who live in the direct path of the eclipse with millions more pouring into the strip of land where the path of totality will travel across. If you don’t want to fight the crowds, you’ll have to wait until April of 2024 to see the next eclipse in the United States. Also, if you really feel motivated or if you’re a scientist, you can basically count on a total solar eclipse about every 18 months or so to occur somewhere on the planet.
What are your plans? Are you heading out to hunt a great camping spot or are you already in the path of the eclipse? Or are you going away from the crowds and letting those stargazers have it all to themselves? Whatever you plans may be, we’d love to hear about them on Twitter or Facebook, so make sure to let us know!