Eclipse 101: What you need to know about viewing the solar eclipse


VALLEY — Though solar eclipses happen roughly 18 months across the globe, the one on August 21 is unique. It will be the first time in 38 years one will be in the United States and the first in almost a century that travels from coast to coast.

On Monday the moon will align between the sun and earth, casting a 70-mile wide shadow from Oregon to South Carolina. Scientists will view the corona and study it in the path of totality while animals will act like it’s nighttime.

When and where to watch

Though the total eclipse won’t pass through Colorado, the view of the partial eclipse will still be quite a sight. Any San Luis Valley resident can go outside in the morning and stare at the sun for a few minutes no matter where they are, but it’s more fun to do it as a group.

Adams State University’s Zacheis Planetarium will host a public viewing session from 10:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside on the planetarium’s sidewalk. The eclipse will peak at 11:46 a.m., when approximately 83.1-85 percent of the sun will be obscured.

Del Norte Bank will also host an event at both their Creede and Del Norte branches.

Planning on watching it closer to the path of totality? Be prepared for heavy traffic going to Wyoming and Nebraska. Don’t look at the eclipse while driving—with or without proper eyewear—and don’t pull over on the side of the road. Make sure to turn on your headlights when the sun will be totally covered by the moon.

How to watch

Staring at the partly obscured sun unprotected is not safe. Special eclipse glasses that block 99.99 percent of sunlight are needed to view the phenomenon safely. Ordinary sunglasses won’t cut it.

Be careful where you get your glasses though, because eclipse fever is creating a large amount of counterfeit products. The simplest way to check the authenticity is to wave your hand over your eyes while wearing them. You shouldn’t be able to see your hand even if it’s less than an inch from your face. Also make sure that your solar eclipse glasses have the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) logo and “ISO 12312-2 standard” written on them somewhere—usually on the inside of one of the arms.

ASU’s planetarium will have safe solar eclipse glasses available in a limited supply for a $1 donation on Monday. There will also be solar filters mounted on telescopes and an image of the sun projected on to a screen. Del Norte Bank will also have a limited amount of eclipse glasses.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the American Astronomical Society only recommend a handful of manufactures like American Paper Optics and Rainbow Symphony. It is also recommended you purchase them in person at a supermarket or retail chain to lessen the chances of buying a fake online. You can view the entire list of reputable vendors and brands at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters

If you plan on taking photos, the same precautions should be followed. Do not look through the optical viewfinder without wearing glasses. Also, a camera’s sensor is like an eye and can be damaged without the proper protection.

Special filters for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can be found at camera stores while cutting out the filter on a pair of paper glasses and taping it on the lens will suffice for a smartphone camera. A tripod is recommended since the sun travels thousands of miles per hour.

Do not put on eclipse glasses and then look through binoculars. The solar filter must be attached to the front of any lens or else your eyes can be seriously injured.

The eclipse can also be viewed indirectly should you find yourself without a safe pair of glasses. A makeshift pinhole projector can be set up in seconds. Simply poke a hole in a piece of paper and an image sun will shine through onto a surface such as the wall or ground. Or, go the old-school route by placing your head in a cardboard box to see the projection in a darker setting.

The internet has you covered if for whatever reason you can’t make it outside to view the eclipse in person. Most major networks along with NASA will have a live stream. Additionally, USA Today has partnered with Instagram and Twitter is working with The Weather Channel to stream the event on their respective social media sites.

If you miss it, don’t worry; the next one in the United States will be in 2024.

More In News