The Eclipse

What is a total solar eclipse?

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, and the Moon’s disk completely covers the surface of the Sun. The Moon’s shadow – the umbra – sweeps across the Earth, turning day into night over a narrow path, while a partial eclipse is visible across a wider area.

What’s so special about the 2017 eclipse?

Total solar eclipses are very rare! The last total solar eclipse over continental United States occurred in 1979 and was visible from only five states. A total eclipse that crosses over the entire continental United States is even more rare: the last one to cross the country (from Oregon to Florida) occurred on June 8, 1918. For many of us, this is a once-in-a lifetime chance to see a total solar eclipse.

What will I see during the total solar eclipse?

If you are in the path of totality on eclipse day, it will be like nothing you have ever seen before. The sky will become very dark … and you will see strange and wonderful eclipse effects, such as the Diamond Ring, a bright flash of light that happens right before totality. You’ll see a black dot (the Moon) over the Sun, and the Sun’s beautiful white corona stretching into space.

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Is it safe to look at a solar eclipse?

It is NEVER safe to look at the Sun without proper eye protection – its powerful light can permanently damage your eyes. Sunglasses cannot protect your eyes when looking at the Sun! Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun while using your eclipse glasses or a handled solar viewer because the Sun’s concentrated rays will damage the filter and damage your eyes. The lenses of binoculars, telescopes and cameras must be covered with a special eclipse filter over the lens on the front, not the back. Seek an astronomer’s advice on how to do this!

During an eclipse of the Sun, protective eyewear must be worn in the partial phases. More than 500 million people in North America, Central and South America will see the partial phases during the 2017 eclipse. In other words, if you want to watch the eclipse take place, you MUST wear protective eyewear! For detailed, accurate information on protecting your eyes during the solar eclipse, please visit NASA’s web site.

Remember: Be wise, protect your eyes!

What about Totality?

Only in the brief totality phase is it safe to remove your protective eyewear. Learn exactly when totality starts and ends in your area, so that you can have someone call out those times on eclipse day. That way, you’ll know when it’s safe to remove your eyewear – and when you need to put your eclipse specs back on.

How do I protect my eyes?

For the partial eclipse phases (before and following totality), you will need protective eye wear such as special eclipse glasses or viewers …. OR … welder’s goggles with the lens glass rated 14 or higher. Click here to learn more about determining the safety rating of welder’s glass.

A safe way to view the eclipse phases is to make your own pinhole projector – they are easy to make and let you look at an image of the eclipse reflected onto a light colored surface. Every copy of The Big Eclipse book includes a safe solar viewer and has instructions on how to make a simple pinhole projector. The safest way to watch the eclipse, however, is to see it streamed live on television!

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eclipse glasses, totality

Will I be in “the path of totality”?

Twelve states are in the path of totality, where the moon’s umbral shadow will create a total solar eclipse: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. However, not every part of every state will experience totality.

A number of web sites show which towns and areas will experience totality. NationalEclipse.com,  GreatAmericanEclipse.com and NASA‘s excellent web sites will tell you if your home is “in the path.”

What about the weather on eclipse day?

A good place to learn about predicted weather conditions for the 2017 eclipse is on the Eclipsophile web site, by Jay Anderson and Jennifer West. On that site, you can check predicted weather in individual states, like Idaho.

Where can I learn more?

Learn all about eclipses and how to safely watch them in The Big Eclipse Book and The Big Eclipse Activity Book. You can also follow The Big Eclipse on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on eclipse news and events around the country. The Big Eclipse would like to share YOUR photos and news about what YOU are doing to get ready for the eclipse, so please stay in touch!

Please note, this document does not constitute medical advice. Readers with questions should contact a qualified eye-care professional and a professional astronomer.