The upcoming total solar eclipse is a rare event for most people to experience. Though one typically occurs every 18 months or so, on average they are only visible from the same location once every few hundred years. The last total eclipse visible from a similar path in the U.S. took place nearly 100 years ago. Because this is such a unique occurrence, most people will want to experience it fully. Here are a few things to keep in mind when viewing the eclipse August 21:
1. Be safe. It’s dangerous to look directly at the sun without proper eye protection, especially for the duration of a total solar eclipse, which can last several minutes. Be sure to track down a pair of glasses approved for this purpose. (Many retailers have been selling eclipse glasses leading up to the event.) Note: When the sun is totally eclipsed, it is safe to look without glasses, as it will no longer be any brighter than a full moon. After the moon begins to move away from the sun, you will need to put your glasses back on. Sunglasses are not the same as eclipse-approved glasses.
2. Find your specific eclipse time. The official times — down to the minute — to view the eclipse can be estimated in advance depending on the area in which you live. Interactive maps like this one can tell you what time the eclipse will occur for your viewing location.
3. Learn! One of the best ways to make this rare event memorable — especially for kids — is to learn as much as you can about the phenomenon. NASA has a full website dedicated to the 2017 eclipse, chock-full of information about how eclipses work, the different types of eclipses, and the scientific discoveries related to eclipses. If you’re not in the path of the eclipse, NASA is also live-streaming the event. It’s also fun to prepare ahead of time so you can fully experience the eclipse and appreciate its beauty. In fact, there are several different stages within the eclipse you can look for if you know what to expect. Check out this video to learn about “shadow snakes,” “bailey’s beads,” the “diamond ring” and all the things you can see during the event!