For many of us who haven't experienced a solar eclipse before, we don't really know what to expect from a celestial event of this nature. During a solar eclipse, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, and for a short period of time, eclipses the sun's light behind its shadow. At that time, viewers can distinctly see see an outline around the moon. But, is it dangerous to watch the solar eclipse? Here's what you need to know before gazing up at the sky.
In general, it's advised that you shouldn't look directly at the sun without the proper protective eyewear. The only exception to this, however, is during totality -- the time period during a solar eclipse when the entirety of the sun is covered by the moon. To be fully prepared for the event taking place on Monday, Aug. 21, viewers should be wearing the proper eyewear.
Viewing the sun, at any time other than totality, can result in serious damage to the eyes, so this is not something to be taken lightly. Do not use binoculars, a camera, telescope, or any unfiltered lens to look at the sun, and inspect your proper solar eyewear before you put them on to make absolutely sure they're not damaged. If you normally wear glasses, keep them on underneath the solar eyewear.
NASA recommends checking your local science museums, schools, and planetariums for eclipse glasses, so your eyes will be properly protected before viewing the celestial event. It's crucial to note that sunglasses are not considered proper eclipse-viewing eyewear. Even in areas where a total solar eclipse can be seen, NASA advises wearing eclipse eyewear for every stage leading up to and after totality. They also have a tutorial teaching you how to build an alternative to eclipse glasses known as a sun funnel.
Don't let the dangers scare you away; the solar eclipse doesn't happen often, and it is an event you want to see. Be sure to follow guidelines and safety protocol, and give your eyes breaks as looking at the sun for an extended period of time can be harmful. Take precautions, and you can enjoy the eclipse and the story you can share for many years.