Of course, the beauty of the August 2017 eclipse is that anyone can view it – no science background or heavy-duty equipment is required. Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, presented an overview of eclipse safety.
Even during an eclipse, it is not safe to look directly at the sun – except for the brief phase of totality, when the moon fully obscures the sun. The only safe way to look directly at the partially eclipsed sun is through a specialized filter. Eclipse glasses are equipped with the proper filters to minimize ultraviolet, visible and infrared light.
It’s crucial to know when to take off and replace your glasses to avoid permanently damaging your eyes. Young described the different phases of a total eclipse, in which the sun provides important visual clues for when totality is about to start and end.
“If you’re wearing your eclipse glasses and it becomes so dark you can’t see anything, you know it’s safe and it’s time to take them off,” Young said.
When viewing a partial eclipse, observers must use eye protection at all times. Partial eclipses can be observed indirectly by projection, in which viewers watch the eclipse on a screen. These can be easily constructed at home with few, simple materials – such as a piece of paper and cardboard box.
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By Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center