What Happens During the Eclipse?

1979: the year of the walkman, of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album, and the first female prime minister was elected in the UK. More notably, 1979 was also the last total solar eclipse visible by the contiguous United States. So maybe not a once in a lifetime opportunity (I still pull out my walkman from time to time), but still an exciting memorable event!

The Planets Align (well the earth, moon, and sun do)

On August 21,2017 the moon will pass between the earth and sun and cover the sun in its entirety. When I first heard about the eclipse I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal; don’t eclipses happen every few years? In short, no. In long, the earth moon and stars have to be a precise distance away from each other in order for the moon to be able to cover the sun entirely; the moon is much smaller than the sun you see. It’s a slow moving celestial dance though, throughout that Monday we’ll be able to watch the moon slowly approach the sun, partially cover it for 2-3 hours and completely cover it for 2 minutes and 41 seconds, and then proceed across the sky. In that time many will turn their eyes upward to see the elusive solar corona (the sun’s atmosphere). No one in their right mind stares directly at the sun, but in light of the upcoming eclipse here’s a few tips in case the excitement puts you right out of your right mind!

How Do I View the Solar Eclipse?

  1. Do not, DO NOT, one more time DO NOT look directly at the sun without proper eye protection (more about that later). Many will be tempted to do some homestar gazing during the partial eclipse, but unless you’re in the mood for some crescent shaped blind spots, I would refrain. Solar retinopathy is a big word refers to the the sun’s direct rays damaging the light sensitive cells in the back of your eye. This leads to blind spots as your brain will not be able to receive input from the damaged parts of your eye.
  2. Do, DO, and again, DO wear specialized solar eclipse eye protection. No, your Costa’s don’t count. Even the darkest of your darkest sunglasses are not up for a fight against the sun’s direct power. Only eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard should be worn to view the partial eclipse. The only time you should remove the eclipse glasses is when the moon covers the sun in totality which is not everywhere in the US (click here for a map of the trajectory). Otherwise, wear your eclipse glasses.

2017: the year of Spotify, of Drake, Donald Trump, and the first total solar eclipse in more than 30 years. Enjoy it! Enjoy it safely- never stare directly at the sun and remember to get your eclipse glasses from your local optometrist.