How To Watch The Solar Eclipse
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On August 21, 500 million people across North and Central America will be able to see either a total or partial solar eclipse. If you’re planning on heading outside and watching the eclipse like it’s any old starry night, think again. Here is your how-to-guide for watching the solar eclipse safely!
Residents in the direct path of the solar eclipse will have a short chance to see the sun’s corona (as long as the solar eclipse cloud coverage isn’t thick). The corona is the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere. A solar eclipse is the only time you can view the corona! The corona becomes visible when the moon completely covers the sun. Then only the glow of the corona is visible.
Whether you’re under the direct path of the total eclipse or miles away it’s crucial that a viewing device is used for the duration of the event. Good solar eclipse viewing devices include:
- Solar eclipse glasses
- Pinhole projectors
- Number 14 Welder’s Glass
Solar Eclipse Lenses
If you’re wondering how to watch the solar eclipse, the easiest way is with specially-designed solar eclipse glasses. You should only use solar eclipse glasses if they are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard. If you possess these glasses, you can safely look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun for them as long as you wish. These are the easiest, most accessible tool for directly viewing a solar eclipse.
There are a lot of reports of fake solar eclipse lenses sold for the 2017 Great America Eclipse. Please check that your pair is safe on the American Astronomical Society’s Reputable Vendors and Solar Filters & Viewers page.
A lot of places are sold out of these special glasses. If you find yourself without the glasses, the next best way to view it is with a pinhole projector. Remember, with a pinhole projector you are not facing the eclipse. To make a pinhole projector, you’ll need an old box, tinfoil, and white paper. Let’s go over some step-by-step instructions.
- Cut a small square (1 inch x 1 inch) in one end fo the box. Make the cut near either the left or right edge of the box
- Tape a piece of tinfoil over the square cut out
- Using a pin or needle, punch a hole in the center of the tinfoil
- Tape down a sheet of white paper to the inside of the box on the side opposite of the tinfoil. This acts as an image screen for the eclipse
- If you used a box with an open side, such as a show box, you will flip the box over, closed side up, and place the box over your head to view the eclipse. Just make sure your head doesn’t block the light path!
- If you are using a closed box, cut another 1 inch by 1 inch square on the side adjacent to where you taped the white paper. Make the cut so you can see the white paper in its entirety because this will be your viewing hole for the eclipse
While viewing the eclipse, stand with your back to the sun. Hold the box with the tinfoil side facing the sun and line the box up with its own shadow to line it up with the sun’s light path. This easy homemade device will protect your eyes while still getting to see the solar eclipse!
Number 14 Welder’s Glass
The next answer to the question of “how to watch the solar eclipse?” is with Number 14 welder’s glass. This option is really only good for last-minute eclipse-viewers and professionals in the trade. This is because welder’s glass can be very expensive. The glasses range from $50-$100, with most home improvement stores only selling full masks near $180.
If you’re going to use welder’s glass, it’s important to note that only Shade 14 offers enough protection. NASA instructs people to “not even think about Shade 12,” for protection. Shade 14 welder’s glass presents another problem: Sometimes it can be too dark to allow viewing of the eclipse. While safe, welder’s glass really isn’t the most feasible or effective way of enjoying a solar eclipse.
One last way to enjoy the solar eclipse is through nature. While this won’t offer a direct view, watching the shadows come through a tree is a beautiful way of indirectly observing the eclipse.
Not every home device will provide sufficient protection for your eyes. Make sure you stick to these four methods for viewing the solar eclipse. Remember, sunglasses and homemade filters are not safe. Also, never use a camera, telescope, or binoculars to look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun (unless you have proper solar lenses).