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Monday, April 17, 2017

Get Ready for the 2017 Solar Eclipse

The Total Solar Eclipse is just about four months from now!

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the face of the Sun as seen from Earth. The complete coverage allows us to see the day as if it were night, and it reveals the solar corona's ghostly wisps. The next total solar eclipse will occur this summer on August 21, 2017, and the eclipse path will cross the continental United States.

Solar Eclipse During Totality in 2015. Image by Miloslav Druckmüller, Shadia Habbal, Peter Aniol, Pavel Štarha
Solar Eclipse During Totality in 2015. Image by Miloslav Druckmüller, Shadia Habbal, Peter Aniol, Pavel Štarha.

The solar eclipse begins on August 21, 2017, at 16:48:33 Universal Time (UT), when the shadow descends down on the Pacific Ocean and the Moon takes its first small piece out of the Sun. Totality begins at 18:24:11.9 UT.

August 21, 2017, seemed a long way off from when we first started talking about this event a few years ago, but for the astronomically savvy the clock has been ticking, and there was no time to waste. Between the last couple of years and now we needed to figure out how to ensure a good experience for the estimated 500 million people across North America who will stand in the Moon's shadow that day.

Path of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.
Path of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.
Most will see only a partial solar eclipse, but tens of millions within a 65-mile-wide track from Oregon to South Carolina will (weather permitting) witness one of Nature's grandest events. In what is being called the "Great American Eclipse", the Moon will completely block the Sun's bright face for up to 2 minutes 42 seconds, turning day into night and making visible the otherwise hidden and always breathtaking solar corona. Please visit NASA's Solar Eclipse page for more information on the best locations to view the solar eclipse.

Observe the Total Solar Eclipse Safely!

You should NEVER look directly at the sun, but there are ways to safely observe an eclipse. If you do plan to observe the August 2017 eclipse, remember: NEVER look directly at the sun without proper eye protection, except when the solar disk is completely occluded (during the brief period of totality); serious and permanent eye damage can result. However, we wouldn't recommend looking toward the sun without proper eye protection during any part of the eclipse.

"Proper eye protection" includes specially made solar filters, eclipse glasses, or No. 14 welder's glass. There are also Solar Eclipse Kits that are available for viewing this rare event. Observing the eclipse can be done without any astronomical equipment by making a pinhole camera or watching shadows cast by trees. (The gaps between leaves act as natural pinholes.)

Below are a few items that will allow you to view the eclipse in a safe manner:

4.30" ID Set of Orion Binocular Solar Filters Orion Solar Eclipse Safe Viewer, 5-pack
4.30 Orion Solar Eclipse Safe Viewer, 5-pack

You may also safely see the eclipse the old-fashioned way by building a Shoebox Pinhole Camera. Finally, if you miss out on the August 2017 event, don't panic as you'll get another chance seven years later. In 2024, a total solar eclipse will darken the skies above Mexico and Texas, up through the Midwest and the northeastern U.S.


  1. As the date of the August 21 eclipse draws near, keep this important safety information in mind: You MUST use special eclipse safety glasses to view a partial eclipse and the partial phases of a total eclipse. To do otherwise is risking permanent eye damage and even blindness. The ONLY time it's safe to look at a TOTAL eclipse without proper eye protection is during the very brief period of totality when the Sun is 100 percent blocked by the Moon. If you're in a location where the eclipse won't be total, there is NEVER a time when it's safe to look with unprotected eyes. NEVER attempt to view an eclipse with an optical device (camera, binoculars, telescope) that doesn't have a specially designed solar filter that fits snugly on the front end (the Sun side) of the device. Additionally, never attempt to view an eclipse with an optical device while wearing eclipse glasses; the focused light will destroy the glasses and enter and damage your eyes.

  2. NationalEclipse has made some VERY GOOD points here with their safety information. Thank you for sharing them on this post!