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Watching the eclipse? Watch your eyes!

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“What are you going to do for Totality?”

That’s the question of the week, and I’ve been asked it about a half dozen times in the last few days. Yes, Totality Day is almost here! Monday, August 21, is just around the corner, and that’s when you’ll have a chance to experience something that some never see at all – a total eclipse of the sun.

Quite a few of Georgia’s state parks are offering special eclipse events; check out gastateparks.org/Eclipse2017 for details on what and where. It might be crowded, but it’s sure to be unforgettable.

Will you be viewing this rare event? I will. But you can bet that I’m going to be sure that I do it safely. Unsafe viewing poses extreme danger to your eyes and can cause permanent damage. You don’t want that.

How do you safely view an eclipse? There’s been much talk about this all over the news for the last few weeks, and there’s a ton of eclipse info (viewing and otherwise) on the web too. NASA weighs in at eclipse2017.nasa.gov, and the American Astronomical Society has great info too at eclipse.aas.org.

Here’s the short version of what they have to say.

As the NASA site points out, “The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as ‘eclipse glasses’ … or hand-held solar viewers.”

NASA and many others emphasize that homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. The only safe ones are eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers which you are certain are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products.

Here are other important points emphasized by NASA and by the American Astronomical Society:

Always inspect your solar filter before use. If it is scratched or damaged in any way, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.

Always supervise children using solar filters.

Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter. Do not remove it while looking at the sun.

Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.

Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.

Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device. Note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.

If you are inside the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.

If you are outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.

If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

An alternative to filters is a pinhole camera-type viewing device. You’ll find instructions for making and using such a viewer at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/how-make-pinhole-projector-view-solar-eclipse. I built one of them just to try it out, and it works!

And what will I be doing during the eclipse? Well, I’ve always wondered what the fishing is like during a total eclipse. I just might mosey over to my favorite stream and try my luck during those moments of totality.

If you see me out there, say hello. I’ll be the one with the flyrod in hand – and with the cereal box sun viewer and the ISO-certified glasses too. Eclipses are neat, but so are my eyes!


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