Viewing a solar eclipse only occurs a few times in our lives. But watching a solar eclipse without proper eye protection can lead to permanent damage. Here are our recommendations for how to safely view an eclipse.
What Is an Eclipse?
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), when one heavenly body like the moon or another planet travels into the shadow of another heavenly body, an eclipse occurs. The two types of eclipses are solar and lunar.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the moon and the sun. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the Earth and the sun. Both types of eclipses can be either partial or total eclipses. In partial eclipses, only a portion of the light is obscured. Total eclipses result in all light being obscured. The next total eclipse of the sun for the United States will occur in April 2024.
During a total solar eclipse, the actual “total” eclipse only lasts for a few moments. Otherwise, as the moon transits across the sun, it will only partially cover it. Hence, a partial solar eclipse occurs. It can take several hours for the moon to transit completely across the sky. The moon moves from West to East across the bright face of the sun. This means that at first, you will see it blocking the sun on its Western edge, then moving to completely block the sun before retreating to the East.
Because these events only occur every few years, people are naturally drawn to watching this natural phenomenon. However, looking directly at the sun during an eclipse can permanently damage your vision and could even result in blindness.
Watching a Partial Solar Eclipse
Keep in mind that viewing the bright sun through normal sunglasses or homemade filters is not safe. Similarly, the American Astronomical Society says that viewing a partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered optical device such as an unfiltered camera telescope, binoculars, etc., is also not safe.
There are special filtered devices called eclipse glasses that can be used to view the sun during a particle eclipse. Alternately, you can use a commercially made solar filter to view the sun indirectly. An indirect method is probably the safest way to view a partially eclipsed sun when the moon blocks the sun only a little bit. As the moon completely covers the sun, a total solar eclipse occurs.
Watching a Total Solar Eclipse
Watching a total solar eclipse requires all of the same precautions as viewing a partial solar eclipse. This is because it is only when the moon completely covers the sun that it is safe to view the sun. However, due to the fact that this period of safety only lasts a few moments, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends never viewing an eclipse without eye protection.
Watching Lunar Eclipses
Watching a lunar eclipse does not require the same precautions as viewing a solar eclipse. This is because you are viewing the moon, not the bright face of the sun. All you need to view a lunar eclipse is to be in the right place at the right time.
We hope that this safety guide has been helpful. You have plenty of time to prepare for North America’s next total eclipse of the sun on April 8th, 2024. For the safest, most enjoyable eclipse experience possible, purchase our Eclipse Glasses well in advance.