There’s no doubt by now that you’ve heard of this summer’s biggest lunar event: the total solar eclipse that will be viewable across the US on August 21, 2017. This is the first time those of us in the US will be able to see a total solar eclipse since 1945 (since 1918 for the southeastern states!).
The path of totality, or the area where a total solar eclipse can be viewed, goes across the US, from the southeast to the northwest, including some parts of Alaska. You can check to see if you fall on the path here. But even if your state doesn’t fall on the path of totality, you may still be able to see a partial eclipse sometime during the day.
Of course, we all know looking directly at the sun for any length of time can do irreparable damage to our eyes. So how can you safely view the eclipse as the moon crosses over the sun?
Binoculars or a Telescope
Our regular stargazers with telescopes or binoculars can use those to view the eclipse, just make sure to have a solar filter in place on the end of the lens. You’ll need the same if you’re planning on recording or viewing the eclipse through a camera. And don’t wear any eclipse glasses if you’re going to be using these magnifying devices; the concentrated light from the optics will go through the filters, causing severe injury to the eye.
During totality, you can remove these lenses but only if you’re in one of the areas where the eclipse will be total, not partial.
DIY Card Projector
This DIY way to view the eclipse is quick, cheap, and easy, which is great if you’ve got young ones who want to watch. You’ll need
- 2 pieces of stiff, white cardboard (paper plates would work) or 2 sheets of plain white paper
- A thumbtack, pin, or needle
To assemble, all you’ll do is take one of the pieces of cardboard or paper and, using the thumbtack, make a tiny, round hole in the middle. When it’s time to view the eclipse, stand with your back to the sun and hold the piece of paper with the hole above your shoulder so the sun shines through. Hold the other sheet of cardboard or paper in front of you as the screen so you can see the sun shine on it. For a larger image, hold your “screen” further away.
DIY Box Projector
A slightly more involved DIY way to get the kids interested in watching the eclipse is to craft your very own box projector for safe viewing. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A long cardboard box (the longer the box, the larger the projected image)
- Duct tape
- Aluminum foil (completely flat, not crinkled)
- Pin or thumbtack
- Sharp knife or paper cutter
- A sheet of white paper
And to make your box projector, just follow these directions:
- Cut a rectangular hole at one end of the box and a circular hole big enough to fit your head in the bottom of the box.
- Cut a piece of aluminum foil slightly larger than the rectangular hole.
- Tape the foil over the rectangular hole in the box.
- Use the pin to poke a tiny hole in the center of the foil.
- Tape the sheet of paper on the inside of the other end of the box.
Then, when it’s time to view the eclipse, stand with your back to the sun. Place the box over your head so the pinhole is pointed toward the sun. Adjust your position until you see a small projection of the eclipse on the paper inside the box.
Eclipse glasses are another great option for watching the big event. Make sure you get a pair regulated by the international safety standard. This means filters that meet the ISO 12312-2 standard a.k.a. about 100,000 times than regular sunglasses, so don’t try to use those instead. Eclipse glasses are pretty widely available right now, with some libraries and museums even providing them for free. To be sure you’re getting eclipse glasses from a reputable manufacturer or authorized dealer, check out this list from the American Astronomical Society.
And our last option goes a little old school: it is safe to use welding filters to view the eclipse, just make sure they’re Shade 12, 13, or 14. Shades lower than 12 won’t provide enough protection for your eyes while Shades higher than 14 may leave the sun looking too dim to see anything.
How will you be viewing the eclipse? Checking out any of these cool places in the path of totality? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!