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Viewing the Solar Eclipse: 5 Things to Know


A perfect lineup of the sun, moon and Earth will be visible across North America for the first time in 38 years on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.  One of the grandest and most fleeting natural spectacles known to humanity, this total solar eclipse is predicted to be the most viewed ever.  Here are five things for Airmen and families to know for a safe viewing experience:

1. The path of “totality”—when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s face—will stretch from Salem, Oregon, starting at 10:16 a.m. and reach Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m.  This means Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, Offutt AFB, Nebraska, Scott AFB, Illinois, Arnold AFB, Tennessee, and Shaw AFB and Charleston AFB, South Carolina will briefly experience near 100 percent eclipse, while the rest of the United States will see at least 70 to 90 percent, to include Joint Base Andrews.   

2.  Looking directly at the solar eclipse without proper eye protection is unsafe and can cause serious, permanent eye damage.  The lone exception is during the brief total phase of the eclipse, which will last under 3 minutes and only within the 70-mile wide band of totality.  Outside of that window, there will be harmful rays for the duration of the celestial event. 

3.  Homemade filters and standard sunglasses—even dark or polarized ones—are not sufficient to prevent eye damage.  This also goes for unfiltered cameras, telescopes, binoculars and other optical devices.  The only safe way to directly view the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters (“eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers) that are “CE” certified and meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard.  Look for these at community centers, public libraries and through reputable manufacturers online.  Those within the narrow band of totality can remove the solar viewer when the moon completely covers the sun and should replace them for the remaining partial phases.  Always supervise children using solar viewers as young eyes are particularly susceptible to solar exposure damage. 

4.  Indirect viewing techniques are a safe and fun alternative.  Pinhole projectors using your hands, cereal boxes or other projection techniques are popular ways to safely observe a solar eclipse.  Look online for instructions on how to make a simple projector.  For the safest viewing experience, NASA will host a livestream “Eclipse Megacast” with exclusive multi-platform coverage across the path of totality.

5.  NASA has a safety section at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov.  Remember, NEVER look directly at the sun with the naked eye except during the brief total phase.  If you experience problems with your eyes or vision following the eclipse, be sure to check in with your local optometry clinic.

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