The 2017 Solar Eclipse is fast approaching on August 21st!
In the first post of the series, I covered resources for learning about solar eclipses. There are book and video resources as well.
Today’s post will cover the ins and outs of viewing this eclipse. We’ll also take a small detour through eye anatomy and sunlight experiments along the way.
Next time I’ll share some hands on activities to try.
WHERE TO SEE THE ECLIPSE
The 2017 full eclipse will be viewable in the Continental US. As I explained in the last post, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moved between the sun and the Earth. The moon blocks out the light from the sun so it casts a shadow on the Earth. Since the moon is moving, the shadow moves, too.
That means that people all across the country will have a chance at seeing a full eclipse.
Being the science geek that I am, my family is making the trek to Carbondale, IL – the official location that NASA is using to study the eclipse.
It’s also only 3 hours from my home in central Illinois. When you live in the cornbelt it’s not often that things are conveniently located to you.
Path of the full eclipse not coming to your town? No problem. Most of the continental US will be able to see a partial eclipse. Check out this interactive map to see what the eclipse will look like in your hometown.
If you are traveling to see the Eclipse make sure to check availability of lodgings in advance. Many prime locations are booked up solid. I had to call 5 campgrounds to find a campsite. And I was calling last January. Even I didn’t know people were that passionate about eclipses.
DON’T BE THE TOY SOLDIER!
If you’re going to watch the eclipse, make sure you do it safely. Looking directly at the sun is a bad idea. Here’s why:
Remember that scene in Toy Story where the little boy next door uses a magnifying lens to focus the sun’s light and melt a toy soldier? I’m not sure about the melting point of toy soldiers but you can use a magnifying glass to start a fire:
It works because the lens changes the path of the sunlight. All the light then comes together at a single point which makes things super bright and super hot. Put something flammable right at that point and it will catch fire. Like this:
Now let’s take a peek at a normal human eye and see what we find:
Yep. Your eye has a lens in it. Just like the lens in a magnifying glass, it changes the path of light so that it focuses on a single point. If your lens doesn’t focus the light just right, you’ll need even more lenses (glasses or contacts) to help with focus.
But the human eye is not really designed for the super brightness of direct sunlight. So let’s look at what happens when you look directly at the sun:
OUCH. No, your eye won’t actually catch fire but you can cause permanent blindness.
Be safe. Do not be the toy soldier.
So hopefully I have convinced you not to look directly at the solar eclipse. Luckily, there’s a simple solutions.
Regular sunglasses won’t do. You’ll need eclipse glasses like these to protect you. Luckily they’re fairly cheap and easy to get. Get a pair for the whole family!
All the eclipse viewing wonder without the ouch.
Next time I’ll post about other fun activities you can do for the eclipse.