If you're like me (and I know I am), you know next week's solar eclipse is going to be extraordinary. A total eclipse will sweep through North America, and millions of people in South America, Central America, even Europe and Russia can enjoy a partial eclipse. This is exciting, and it's time to prepare.
There's a lot of information out there. So, keep one thing in mind:
"Be wise; protect your eyes."
It is never safe to look directly at the Sun overhead without protective eyewear. The danger is simply that an eclipse is so fascinating, that we are tempted to stare right at the Sun for minutes at a time, much longer than we would even consider on any other day. Don't try to sneak even a glimpse. A direct look at the Sun can cause a lifetime of permanent eye damage. Let's avoid that.
Here are three things I recommend for safe solar eclipse viewing:
Before the eclipse, secure safety eyewear for your family, students or friends (including yourself, while you're at it). Everyone should have their own pair, even if you're watching with a small child. Check your glasses for scratches and scuffs, even if your glasses are brand new. Many places are selling and distributing free eclipse glasses. Check out the American Astronomical Society's approved list of safe eyewear distributors.
The Planetary Society
Bill Nye with eclipse glasses
On the big day itself, wear your eclipse glasses at all times to view the Sun as it becomes eclipsed by the Moon. The exception will be for those of us directly in the path of totality, and even there only during the brief period when the world goes totally dark. Only there can you briefly remove your protective eyewear and view the Sun's corona. Please view this NASA infographic to prepare:
Eye safety during an eclipse
No time to get eyewear? Distribution place ran out? No problem. There are safe ways to experience an eclipse through pinhole viewing. This is a way to watch an eclipse without looking directly at the Sun. It's easy and fun for families, students, and science gals or guys like me. My colleague, Emily Lakdawalla, can guide you through this. Watch this video to learn how: