The phases of a solar eclipse in one picture.

Everyone is buzzing about the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States in 99 years. Why wouldn’t you be excited? The moon is going to perfectly align with the sun and create a night sky in the middle of the day – you can literally see stars and planets once it is a total eclipse. Solar eclipses are an amazing occurrence of nature that not everyone gets to witness in their lifetime.

Those in the U.S. who do want to witness this occurrence are prepping for the event on August 21st, 2017 by either making travel plans to the line of totality, signing up for viewing parties, buying solar viewing glasses, or any combination of those things. Whatever you plan, consider the following do’s and don’t’s of the 2017 American solar eclipse.

DO find a location and determine the viewing time

NASA’s eclipse map shows the line of totality and the lines of partial eclipse. Image courtesy of NASA.

Only certain parts of the U.S. will see a total solar eclipse. Major cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago will see a partial eclipse. There is a line of totality that starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina. Some cities within that line include Nashville, Charleston, St. Louis, and Kansas City. To find out the time the eclipse will occur wherever you are, you can check out this website that can find the time for any location.

If you are not up to traveling to see the total eclipse, it is worth it to look up events in your area for viewing parties. There is a list of local libraries, state parks, zoos, and businesses hosting parties. For all of the New Yorkers out there: Pioneer Works, Astronomy on Tap, and The New York Public Library will be hosting events in addition to many more places in the city. Most of these events are also providing free solar eclipse glasses, which brings me to my next point.


A National Park Service Ranger using solar eclipse viewing glasses. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

I put that in all caps for a reason: According to multiple experts, you can go blind by looking at the eclipse with the naked eye. Ralph Chou, a professor emeritus of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo, said in an NPR article that even little glances can add up to sight damage, the damage is not immediately apparent, and damage is permanent half the time. The only time it is safe to look at the sun with the naked eye is during the eclipse’s totality, which only lasts a few minutes. There are multiple businesses selling protective glasses, but make sure whatever you get has ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.

DO take proper precautions with cameras

Protect your lenses from the sun.

With a camera in every smart phone, it is easy to take a picture or video of this amazing event. If you are going to take a picture with your phone, remember to only look at the phone screen with your protective eyeglasses. Another thing you absolutely have to make sure of is to not use any flash. Camera flash will ruin the dark adaption of viewers eyes, which ruins the viewing for everyone. If you plan to take pictures, make sure to turn off your flash before you snap anything.

If you have a DSLR camera, it will be more difficult to capture the event and it is possible you could damage your camera. In order to take pictures safely before and after the eclipse, you need “Full Aperture” or “Off-Axis” filters. You also need to consider the proper settings on your camera, which you can determine from this chart.

DO enjoy the experience

Three Parisian women watching the solar eclipse of 8 April 1921 on the Cour du Havre.

I realize this last one is pretty cheesy, but I truly mean it. This is something that most people see once – if at all – in their lifetime. View this phenomenon however you want to, and remember: find the right time for your viewing area, turn off your camera flash, and wear protective glasses.

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