On Aug. 21, Americans from Oregon to South Carolina will be able to witness a total solar eclipse as the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. While eclipses happen every 18 months or so, total solar eclipses are fairly rare, so Aug. 21 will be a pretty special day in the United States.
Lika Guhathakurta, lead scientist for the Living With a Star program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. said of this eclipse, it’s “going to be the most observed, most filmed and photographed, most studied and documented, and, probably, the most appreciated of all eclipses in human history.” In other words, Twitter and Facebook may want to crank up extra servers for the day.
While this event is going to be exciting, you need to be exceedingly careful in how you view it. The only time it is safe to look directly at the eclipse with unshielded eyes is during totality, and that is a very brief window and will only be a 70-mile wide swath of the country as the event occurs. The longest window will last only 2 minutes and 40 seconds and will be near Carbondale, Illinois.
During all other phases of the eclipse, you will need to be wearing either special eclipse glasses or No. 14 welder’s glass. If you’re using a telescope make sure that you have solar filters installed. If you attempt to view the eclipse without protection during any phase other than totality, permanent eye damage can result.
Enjoy the eclipse, but be sure to be smart about it!