Learn how to watch a solar eclipse safely, find the vest viewing location, get tips for planning an eclipse viewing trip, and more!
Did you know that a solar eclipse is going to be passing over the US on October 14, 2023 and on April 8, 2024? Yes, it's true ... two solar eclipses in less than 12 months!
The October 14 eclipse is an annular solar eclipse (where the sun appears as a brilliant ring / "ring of fire" around the moon) that will pass over Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Then on April 8, 2024 there will be a total eclipse (where to moon completely blocks out the sun) that passes over Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and the Canadian Maritime provinces.
My excitement about eclipses started in 2016, when I read about a total eclipse that was happening in the summer of 2017. Over time, I grew more and more excited to see it, and with a little friendly persuasion (i.e., constantly mentioning it for nine months), I even managed to convince my husband that we should take a trip to Kansas City to see it!
It was such an awesome trip, and of course, now I can't wait to view the upcoming eclipses. 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, first things first ... I am obviously not an eclipse expert. Just wanted to get that out there! 😉
I have done lots of research though, so 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 Eclipse Viewing Location
The 2017 total solar eclipse cut a diagonal path across the United States from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, which you can see on the map above.
To see the total solar eclipse (where to moon completely blocks out the sun's light), you needed to be in the path of totality. And the same will hold true for the April 8, 2024 total eclipse.
Won't be anywhere near the path of totality? You'll still be able view a partial eclipse. You can see a detailed map of the eclipses path here. Find a detailed map of the October 14 annular eclipse here.
Keep in mind that weather also affects how visible an eclipse is. If the sky is cloudy and the sun is obscured, you won't be able to see the eclipse. Because the next total eclipse is happening in April, the weather will probably be pretty unpredictable. Your best bet for clear weather is most likely in Texas and Mexico.
Another thing to keep in mind ... if you want to view the total eclipse for as long as possible, then you should look for viewing locations that fall along or as close as possible to the red line in the center of the path of totality.
The farther out you are from the center of the path, the shorter the view time will be.
Many cities along the path will be 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
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. 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
- Layers of clothes to help you stay warm
- 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.
Eclipse Viewing 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:
- 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.
- Great American Eclipse: A website with lots of info on the upcoming 2023 and 2024 eclipses.
- Local eclipse websites: As it gets closes to the event, search for eclipse-related websites in your local area for events, viewing sites, and other info.
- NASA Eclipse 2017: A comprehensive guide to the 2017 eclipse.
- Astronomy Magazine: Another in-depth guide to the 2017 eclipse.
Are you planning to view the upcoming eclipses? Where will you be watching it from?