Solar Eclipse Safety
August 18, 2017
Are you prepared for the solar eclipse that will occur on Monday, August 21?
The Great American Solar Eclipse
A solar eclipse happens when something (usually the moon) gets in between the sun and Earth, thus blocking the sun's light from shining on the earth's surface. This is the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse to happen in the United States in almost 100 years, though a small part of the U.S. saw a solar eclipse in 1979.
NASA reports that more than 300 million people in the United States will view the solar eclipse on Monday. The path of totality (areas that will see a complete blockage of the sun) will pass through fourteen states - Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The closest major city to Alabama to experience totality will be Nashville, Tennessee.
Locally in Tuscaloosa County, there should be about 90% of the sun blocked by the moon. The partial eclipse will begin at 11:59 AM, with the maximum amount of the sun being covered at 1:30 PM. The partial eclipse will end at 2:57 PM.
Staying Safe While Viewing the Eclipse
Never look directly at the sun. Doing so will cause permanent, irreversible eye damage, possibly even to the point of going blind. Even when the sun is mostly blocked by the moon, it is not safe to look at the sun without special eye protection. Below are some ways to safely view the solar eclipse:
- Special, approved solar glasses, viewers, and filters can be purchased online or locally in stores. Be sure to check that the glasses/viewers are certified within the designated ISO 12312-2 international standard, and have no scratches or wrinkled. You can make sure your glasses are certified by checking this list HERE.
- An alternative to buying special viewing glasses is to view the solar eclipse with a pinhole projector. It is extremely important to view the sun by watching the screen and not the sun directly - even looking at the sun through a pinhole can cause extreme damage. Click HERE to learn how to make a pinhole projector.
- Take breaks and give your eyes a rest!
- Do NOT use sunglasses, even if they are very dark. Additionally, do NOT look at the sun through a telescope, binoculars, or a camera unless those devices have a solar filter.
- If you are planning on trying to use a welder's mask to view the sun, know that NASA states only those with Shade Number 12 or higher are safe. If you find a mask, make sure you know the Shade Number prior to using it - if it is less than 12, do not use!
- Do NOT use your cellphone to view the eclipse, even in selfie mode. This is not only super-dangerous for your eyes but can also damage your phone.
- Remember your pets! Though animals do not typically look up at the sun, they may do so on this day because of the changes in the sun. You keep pets indoors with the blinds or curtains closed to be cautious.
Local Viewings of the Eclipse
While you can certainly watch the eclipse from wherever you are on Monday, some areas are providing "watch parties" for Tuscaloosa County. Additionally, if you are unable to view the eclipse or have no way to safely do so, you can watch the entire event online. See below for some ideas:
- NASA will live-stream a special four hour program, "Eclipse Across America: Through the Eyes of NASA," with real-time coverage of the solar eclipse from coast to coast. The program will include images of the eclipse from various spacecraft, including the International Space Station, and numerous ground observations. You can watch the program HERE.
- The City of Tuscaloosa will host Solar-bration at Government Plaza from noon - 2 PM Monday. Glasses will be available for the first 500 attendees and food trucks will be on site. Find more information HERE.
- The University of Alabama physics and astronomy faculty and students are hosting a viewing of the eclipse. The event will be held on the Quad side of Gallalee Hall from 12 - 3 PM Monday. There will also be a general watch party on the Quad. Find more information HERE.