The 2017 total solar eclipse is almost here!
Learn how to watch a solar eclipse safely, plus find the vest viewing location, get tips for planning your viewing trip, and more!
Did you know that a total solar eclipse is going to be passing over the US on August 21?
I first read about the 2017 total solar eclipse about a year ago, and since then, I’ve been getting more and more excited to see it! With a little friendly persuasion (i.e., constantly mentioning it for the past 9 months), I even managed to convince my husband that we should plan a trip to Kansas City to see it!
Now that we are in the final countdown to viewing day, and since most of my readers are from the US, I thought it would be fun to share some tips for how to watch a solar eclipse.
How to Watch a Solar Eclipse
Okay, so first things first … I am obviously not an eclipse expert. Just wanted to get that out there! 😉
Since I’m planning to view the eclipse myself though, I’ve done lots of research, and I wanted to share some tips in case you want to view the eclipse, too. And I’ve found some great resources for how to watch a solar eclipse that you can check out for more info, too.
Let’s get started!
Finding the Best Location
Map courtesy: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio (click to view larger)
The 2017 total solar eclipse will be cutting a diagonal path across the United States from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, which you can see on the map above.
If you want to see the total solar eclipse (where to moon completely blocks out the sun’s light), then you need to be in the path of totality. That’s the gray area on the map, and it’s 70 miles wide.
Won’t be anywhere near that narrow 70 mile strip? You’ll still be able view a partial eclipse. In fact, everyone in the US will be able to see the 2017 eclipse … no matter where you’re located, even Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico!
If you want to see how the eclipse will look in your area, check out this awesome zip code map I found. Simply plug in your zip code to find out when the eclipse will peak and what it will look like from your location.
Map courtesy: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio … click the link to view larger and to view other states.
Want to view the total eclipse, not just a partial eclipse? Then, you need to be in that 70 mile wide path of totality. That’s why my husband and I are traveling to Kansas City to watch the eclipse.
It’s important to keep in mind that even if you will be in the path of totality, the length of time you’ll be able to view the total eclipse will vary based on how close you are to the center of the path.
For example, Kansas City is located near the edge of the path of totality, so the length of total darkness (about 2 minutes and 19 seconds) won’t be as long as it will be near the center of the path. In nearby St. Joseph, MO, which is located near the center of the path of totality, the total eclipse will be visible for 2 minutes and 38.6 seconds, only 1.4 seconds short of the maximum time possible along the path.
Long story short, if you want to view the total eclipse for as long as possible, look for locations that fall along or as close as possible to the red line in the center of the path of totality.
Also, many cities along the path are planning events for the day of and the days surrounding the eclipse. So make sure to search for what’s going on in your area.
Purchase Eclipse Glasses
Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse is very dangerous and will damage your eyes. You need special glasses to view the eclipse safely.
Per NASA: If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases. Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.
Homemade filters and regular sunglasses are not safe to use for viewing an eclipse.
You also shouldn’t look through a camera lens, binoculars, telescope, or other device (unless it has a special solar filter … not any filter will work! … consult an expert). The concentrated solar rays will damage your eyes.
To view an eclipse safely, you need to protect your eyes with special viewing glasses. It’s also safe to view an eclipse through number 14 welder’s glass or via a pinhole (through which you’d be viewing a projection of the eclipse, not looking directly at it).
Thankfully, eclipse viewing glasses are generally very inexpensive and easy to find. My husband picked up ours on a trip for $2 each. Not sure what to look for? Here’s a list of reputable vendors from the American Astronomical Society.
If you’re attending an event, they may be providing eclipse shades. I would purchase glasses beforehand to be on the safe side though. It’s hard to tell how many people will be attending these events, and it would be the absolute worst if they ran out before you got a pair, right?
What Else to Bring
Although the time of totality (when the moon completely covers the sun) is short, the 2017 eclipse will be visible for a total of 90 minutes.
If you are planning to view the eclipse for the full duration, keep in mind that you’ll most likely be outside and may have limited access to food, bathrooms, and other comforts. It’s probably going to be hot (and hopefully, sunny!), so you’ll need to protect yourself from the elements, too.
Here are a few other things you might want to pack:
- Sunblock, hats, and/or umbrellas to block the sun
- Snacks and water (Moon Cheese seems very appropriate … plus, it’s delicious!)
- Chairs, cushions, and/or blankets to sit on
- Medicines you need to take
- Hand sanitizer
- Cash (in case you need to buy something and credit cards aren’t accepted)
- Anything else you need to remain comfortable for an extended period
Keep in mind, too, that there may be a lot of traffic heading to eclipse events (and after events) and surrounding viewing locations. Plan ahead and leave early.
2017 Total Eclipse Resources
I hope you enjoyed these tips on how to watch a solar eclipse. I’d love to hear about your plans to view the total eclipse of the sun!
And make sure to check out these resources for more info on how to watch a solar eclipse:
- NASA Eclipse 2017: A comprehensive guide to the eclipse with info on everything from “What is an eclipse?” to safety to planning a viewing party. Find everything you need to know about the August 2017 total solar eclipse here!
- Official NASA Event Locations: Find official event locations along the path of totality. View other general/unofficial events here.
- Zip Code Tool: Plug in your zip code to see what time the eclipse will peak in your area and what the eclipse will look like.
- Eclipse Viewing Glasses: Only use and purchase glasses with special lenses! Here’s a list of reputable vendors from the American Astronomical Society.
- Printable Pinhole Projector: Download and create your own 2D or 3D Pinhole Projector in the shape of the USA and/or a US State.
- Astronomy Magazine: An in-depth guide to the eclipse.
- Great American Eclipse: Another website with lots of eclipse info.
- Local eclipse websites: Search for eclipse-related websites in your local area for events, viewing sites, and other info.
Are you planning to view the 2017 total solar eclipse? Where will you be watching it from?