I know, everyone is writing about the eclipse. I’ve got just a few messages. One is, this is gonna be cool. Two, the caution messages are real. The cool part is because when our world goes a little dark mid-day next week it will be fairly startling. Even the animals are expected to change up how they behave. And the cautionary messages just make sense. Our eyes and our vision are clearly worth protecting ferociously. Damage from the eclipse can be permanent so taking a few steps to understand how and why just makes sense. And for framing this whole thing up in life? Thank goodness many of us have children in our midst. Their enthusiasm about how BIG this event is can help scale how exciting it is when the sun disappears in the middle of the day. Children harbor amazing perspective of what matters. Monday is a great day to stop reading the news and stare up into the sky (carefully). Thank goodness.

Quick Summary Of The Total Solar Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to at least a partial view of an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights (as I’m told) – a total solar eclipse, which has not happened in 99 years. This path, where the moon, the sun and the Earth all line up such that the moon completely blocks out the sun will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. The New York Times created the above video that captures the science and awe of this event. Even NASA created a website to provide a guide to viewers. Out West, people are talking of little else and Slate is reporting that Oregon is expecting 1 million tourists view the eclipse. People are changing up their weeks to view this. Two little girls from Seattle are getting real – they’re launching a weather balloon into space, in partnership with NASA, with live GPS tracking (and an Amelia Earhart LEGO) and some live video coverage links, too. I mean, it’s a big deal.

Can The Eclipse Hurt My Eyes?

Yes, the eclipse can hurt your eyes if you stare directly at the sun for any time. But you and your children can safely watch the eclipse if you follow a few recommendations. A long version of these recommendations are available at American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  1. No direct looking. A reminder to never look directly at the sun during the eclipse without appropriate eye protection. The total eclipse only happens for a couple minutes (for those in the path of totality) and the rest of us don’t have a single window of time on Monday where it’s safe to look at the sun directly, even when partially eclipsed.
  2. Regular sunglasses don’t count. Real solar viewers are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses. Don’t think you can hack this with your old, dark sunglasses.
  3. Purchase eye protection or don’t look directly up at the sun. The bad news, if you’re a late buyer it might be too late to buy these glasses as USA Today reports that retailers across America are selling out at rapid pace. The other bad news is there have numerous media reports that some glasses are counterfeit and may not actually protect you. Here’s a list of glasses/filters from the American Astronomical Society with some vetted sellers/manufacturers that are thought to be more “reputable.”
  4. Do not look at a partially-eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device — in some cases this can magnify and potentiate the light and cause an even more extensive exposure and injury.
  5. Blindness? Some of the claims that looking quickly at the sun can cause blindness may be overstated but there’s no question that looking at the sun can quickly cause real and extensive damage to your retina (back of your eye). Staring directly at the sun causes a condition called solar retinopathy that occurs when bright light from the sun floods the retina on the back of the eye. Live Science explains, “The retina is home to the light-sensing cells that make vision possible. When they’re over-stimulated by sunlight, they release a flood of communication chemicals that can damage the retina. This damage is often painless, so people don’t realize what they’re doing to their vision.” Be careful.
  6. If you can’t find ways to get glasses or make a viewer yourself, consider watching a live stream of the actual eclipse. NASA will be streaming it live. You and your children can also get crafty and can make a PINHOLE CAMERA to view the eclipse from your backyard.

What If I Miss The Eclipse?

If you’ll be vacationing in Cuba next week, despair not. There will be solar eclipses visible from parts of the contiguous U.S. on Oct. 14, 2023, and April 8, 2024. The one in 2024 will be a total solar eclipse visible from Texas to Maine. Fair-ups for all you not in the path of totality or close to it this time.

What About Animals?

Animals may react to the eclipse and maybe our puppies will take note. “In total solar eclipses, there are observations of animals going to sleep,” Rick Schwartz, an animal behavior expert with the San Diego Zoo, told ABC News. “The animals take the visual cues of the light dimming, and the temperature cues. You hear the increase of bird calls and insects that you usually associate with nightfall. Farmers have said that the cows lay down on the field or the chickens go back into the coop.” I’m already imaging all the Instagram videos of the puppies…

Image c/o NPR