The older your children get, the fewer opportunities there are for firsts. When the chance to experience something new comes along you want to make sure you enjoy it.
The solar eclipse next Monday will be my daughter’s first opportunity to witness the phenomenon. I plan to take full advantage of the event, fueling her love of science and nature.
When to watch
If you’re planning to watch the eclipse, you want to make sure you’re catching it at the right time. Incidentally, the timing is dependent on your location. On the West Coast, the partial eclipse will start around 9 a.m., totality will begin about an hour and 15 to 20 minutes later and the eclipse will end two and a half to three hours after it began. On the East Coast, the partial eclipse will start around 1 p.m., totality will begin about an hour and a half later and the eclipse will end two and a half to three hours after it began.
In the Salem, Ohio, where I will be watching it, the partial eclipse will start around 1:08 p.m., totality will begin at 2:33 p.m. and the eclipse will be over at 3:53 p.m. In Salem, I will only get to see a partial solar eclipse, with 80 percent coverage of the sun.
You can find the exact time to watch and percentage of coverage in your location by using the TimeandDate.com Eclipse Map.
No matter where you are watching it from, totality — when the sun is completely covered by the moon — will only last for two minutes and 40 seconds. Make sure you are ready and watching well in advance.
Protecting your eyes
Other than making sure you’ve planned to view the solar eclipse at the right time for your location, you need to take safety precautions and protect your eyes. The only time it’s safe to look directly into the sun is during totality. However, if you’re outside the path of the total eclipse, like me, then it’s never safe because the sun will only be partially covered.
The only safe way to look directly at the partially eclipsed sun is through glasses or a viewing device with special-purpose solar filters.
11 tips for viewing the sun
- Don’t rely on regular sun glasses — even dark ones. They transmit thousands of time too much sunlight, according to the American Astronomical Society.
- Always inspect the lens or lenses of your solar filter before use to look for scratches, punctures and tears. If it’s damaged, discard it.
- Keep an eye on children using solar filters.
- If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them one and put your solar filter on in front of them.
- Always put your solar filter on before looking into the sun, and take it off after you’ve looked away from it.
- Don’t look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical devices.
- Don’t look at the Sun through a camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical devices while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer as concentrated rays could damage the filter and injure your eyes.
- Solar filters can be attached to the front of telescopes, binoculars and camera lenses, but it’s important to seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with an optical device.
- Only remove your eye protection to view the eclipse if you are in the path of totality and the sun is totally covered.
- If you are outside the path of totality, you must always wear eye protection.
- Make sure to buy eclipse glasses that compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, so you can look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through them for as long as you wish and you can reuse them indefinitely if they are not damaged. Non-compliant models only allow you to look at the sun for three minutes at a time and need to be thrown out after three years. Find a list of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers here.