Total solar eclipse 2017 concept art.

Great American Eclipse 2017: How To Look, What To Look For

The great American eclipse 2017 is just around the corner. It’s happening on August 21, and, nearly one-third of the U.S. population is expected to make its way into the “path of totality.” For two-and-a-half minutes people will get to experience a total solar eclipse. But, how can you look at the eclipse and what should you look for?

How To Look At The Solar Eclipse

There are various ways to look at the eclipse. But, one thing to always keep in mind is safety. Looking directly into the sun is never a good idea. But, staring at it for two-and-a-half minutes would be downright dangerous. Your eyes are too important not to protect them. Here are ways to view the eclipse, going cheapest to more expensive.

Simple Pinhole Projector

One of the simplest ways to view the eclipse is through a pinhole projector. These are easy to make at home and can be as simple as two pieces of paper or card. One card has a small round hole poked in it. This is the pinhole used for viewing. The other card is on the ground or parallel to the ground. The eclipse image is then viewed by shining the sun’s image through the pinhole onto the card. This is an easy way to indirectly view the eclipse.

A pinhole projector is a great way to view the eclipse indirectly. [Image by NASA]

Eclipse Glasses

These are glasses specially constructed just for eclipse viewing. NASA has issued safety instructions for eclipse glasses. When purchasing these glasses, make sure that they meet the safety standards from NASA. Especially as the eclipse date gets closer, the opportunity for glasses scams are abound. Don’t be a victim; it could cost you your sight.

Eclipse glasses should be placed on your eyes prior to looking at the eclipsing sun. They should be left on at all viewing times. Do not take them off until you have finished your viewing. Especially if you are not in the path of totality, never look at the sun during the eclipse without your eclipse glasses on.

Special Filters

A filter to consider is number 14 welder’s glass. But, according to NASA, “It is imperative that the welding hood houses a #14 or darker filter.” Most welding hoods used for arc welding do not use a number 14 filter. Be sure of the filter strength before using a welder’s hood.

Eclipse glasses that meet NASA standards are a great way for a direct view of the Great American Eclipse of 2017. [Image by Eclipse Glasses | Wikimedia Commons | cropped and resized | CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Telescopes Or Binoculars

When viewing the eclipse directly, it is best to view it magnified. Telescopes or binoculars are best for this. But, be sure that there is a special filter attached to keep out the sun’s rays. Solar telescopes and binoculars are made for viewing the sun. But, sun filters can be purchased to allow regular binoculars and telescopes to be used for eclipse viewing.

What to Look For

The path of the eclipse will move from west to east. This is because the moon orbits in an easterly direction as does the earth’s rotation. And, since the shadow of the eclipse moves fast (mach 1.5), it is important to know what to look for. That way, you can get the most out of your eclipse experience.

Eclipse Sequence

As the eclipse begins, you will be able to see the sun as it is being blocked by the moon. The sun’s disk appears to become more moon-shaped until it is totally obscured. Then, when the eclipse begins to subside, the sun once again gets the moon shape until the eclipse ends. This all happens within the space of two-and-a-half minutes.

Bailys’ Beads

These were named after Francis Baily, a world-renowned astronomer. Bailys’ Beads are the effect of sunlight coming through the valleys and over the mountains on the moon. This creates flashes of sunlight directly before and directly after the full eclipse. This happens because the moon is not perfectly round. This effect can only be seen if the viewer is in the “path of totality.”

You can view this phenomenon directly before and after the total eclipse. [Image by Arne Danielson/NASA]

Diamond Ring Effect

The “diamond ring effect” also happens directly before and after the full eclipse. This refers to the “single point of sunlight brilliantly shining through a valley on the limb of the moon.”

Viewing the eclipse has generated tons of excitement. The last time a total solar eclipse happened within viewing of a large number of Americans was back in 1918. And, never has the “path of totality” been solely in the U.S. So, be sure to make plans for your eclipse viewing. If you can, be sure to get into the “path of totality.” And, no matter what, be safe. Don’t turn a wonderful experience into a nightmare; either view indirectly or with safe filters. Twenty-three days and counting! great American eclipse of 2017!

[Featured Image by SandroSalomon/Shutterstock]