On Monday, August 21st, 2017, sky gazers can witness a total or partial solar eclipse—weather-permitting and depending on their location on the planet—as it traverses North America. There’s been a lot of excitement in the news; though some of the continent witnessed one in 1979, and an annular solar eclipse will be viewable from Northern California to Florida in 2023, this kind of nationwide traversal of a total solar eclipse hasn’t happened since 1918, and it won’t happen again over the continental U.S. until 2024. NASA Goddard explains in the animated primer above.
“The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting two to three hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a 60 to 70 mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total eclipse. During those brief moments when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for 2+ minutes, day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. This is truly one of nature’s most awesome sights.
Because it’s not safe to look at the sun’s rays before and after the moment of totality (when the moon appears to completely covers the sun from your position on the planet) or during a partial eclipse (what you’ll see if you’re not within the 70-mile-wide path), you’ll need high quality eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers to directly observe the event. NASA recommends these manufacturers whose products have been certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard.
If you haven’t found proper viewing gear, you can also build an inexpensive DIY Solar Viewer to project an image of the eclipse. CaLisa Lee from The Planetary Society shows us how to make a pinhole projector in this vid:
NASA has more info at eclipse2017.nasa.gov, including safety and other science activities. Plus, check out Sharing an Eclipse with Kids, a handy guide (including a handout available in English, Spanish, French, and Russian) for teachers and parents from Planetary scientist Emily Lakdawalla, and from Science Friday: Five Ways To View The Solar Eclipse.