There are a lot of misconceptions out there.
This August, the U.S. will experience its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years. The eclipse will travel from Oregon to South Carolina, darkening skies and dropping temperatures along the way. Astronomers are already calling it a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, once-in-a-lifetime event. One told Space.com total eclipses have a tendency to “bring people to tears.”
Why do all eclipses tend to cast a spell on the humans who watch them? What do you need to know about this upcoming event?
- David Boboltz Program Director, National Science Foundation’s Division of Astronomical Sciences; Program director, NSF’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope under construction in Maui, HI
- Carrie Black Associate Program Director, National Science Foundation Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division
- Alex Young Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
- Ernie Wright Visualizer, NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA Goddard Tracing the 2017 Solar Eclipse
How Do I See The Eclipse And Can I Take A Photo Of It?
What do I need if I want to look at it? Can I take a picture of it?
Fortunately, NASA has guides to both.
First of all, NASA says eclipses (and any direct solar rays) “are never safe to watch without taking special precautions.” Looking into the sun without eye protection, or with the wrong protection, can cause serious damage. If you want to see the eclipse, take all necessary precautions.
You can look at it indirectly by making a pinhole viewer. This box will let you watch the event without looking up.
Or you can get a pair of eclipse glasses. These are easy to find online, and some public libraries are giving them away. These paper glasses are equipped with special lenses that block out anything except the sun itself. Beware of fakes, though.
Your camera’s sensor can also be hurt by the sun. You want to make sure you have the right gear and filters to block enough light to keep everything working properly. In addition, you’ll need a camera with manual settings. NASA has a guide that gets into focal lengths, apertures and the like, which can help ensure you have some photographic evidence of this once-in-a-lifetime event. Just don’t spend too much time in the viewfinder and miss the eclipse itself.
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