As most already know, on August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible across all of North America, but did you know that this is the first total solar eclipse that’s just in the continental U.S in 38 years! That’s right! The last one occurred February 26, 1979. This time, the entire continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a roughly 70 mile wide path (path of totality) from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a brief total eclipse. Lucky for us, our little town will be in the path of totality, which means that we’ll experience the total eclipse for a little over 2 minutes.
What is a total eclipse and is it different than a partial?
A total eclipse is when then moon completely blocks the sun, and during that time bright stars and plants will also become visible. We all know that looking directly at the sun is unsafe, except during the short total phase of a solar eclipse which is called the ‘totality”. This is the only time when it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse because the moon is entirely blocking the sun. However, keep in mind that this will only happen within the narrow path of totality.
I admit that we’re a little excited that we’ll be able to experience a the total eclipse. One thing that we learned during one of our recent field trips and studies of the solar eclipse is that a partial eclipse that many will experience is simply not the same as experiencing a total eclipse. Even if you’re located at 98% of the partial eclipse, it will still be different than if you experience at 100%.
How can you safely view the eclipse?
The only safe way to directly at the partially eclipsed sun is through special solar filters such as “eclipse glasses” or even hand-held viewers. We recently order THESE for our family for the eclipse. They are very, very dark…almost reminds us of welding glasses. To find out more about the type of glasses or hand-held devices you may need, you can visit HERE. Currently there are only 4 manufacturers that have certified their eclipse glasses. American Paper Optics is one of the companies that have been certified. That’s the brad of our eclipse viewing glasses. Some planetariums are selling eclipse glasses as well, so if you have a planetarium near you, it might be worth checking to see.
What About Telescopes?
If you do plan on using a telescope to view the solar eclipse, keep in mind that you will need to attach a solar filter at the large end of the scope, and never use small solar filters that simply attach to the eyepiece.
If you’re not able to get eclipse viewing glasses, or a filter for your telescope, there are other ways in which you can view the eclipse. Even though we have purchased the glasses, we have talked about letting all the kids in our homeschool group make a Solar Eclipse viewing box.
Are there other ways to view the eclipse?
There are additional ways in which you can view the eclipse. You can use a cereal box as a viewing method, index cards and more. You can also download a FREE Apologia Solar Eclipse E-Book that has more Eclipse details, images, and maps to help you plan for this event. NASA also has an awesome FREE downloadable Activitiy Book as well.
Learn even more:
You can visit HERE to find a wonderful selection of educational videos about the eclipse.