In anticipation of the solar eclipse occurring August 21, NASA.gov has published Eclipse 101: a guide that explains how you can view a solar eclipse safely. The article addresses proper viewing equipment, where to purchase it, and how and when to use it. As helpful as this article is, NASA needs to do more to reach out to millennials who will only pay attention if the article is posted on Snapchat in list form with liberal use of memes and pop culture references. The fewer people who know an eclipse is coming, the more people who will be too lazy to Google “proper solar eclipse-viewing procedure” during the estimated two-and-a-half hours the eclipse will occur in their location. So on behalf on NASA, here is a list of steps you can take to enlighten your eclipse-viewing experience:
1. Learn when it is.
First go to TimeandDate.com to learn when the eclipse will occur in your area. For example, people in Orlando will be able to see the eclipse from 1:19 to 4:14 p.m. A totality (when the moon eclipses the Sun completely) will not be visible from Orlando, but the greatest coverage will occur at 2:51.
2. Do not stare at the Sun.
3. Seriously, don't do it.
Some people think it's a good idea to view a solar eclipse through a telescope or a camera. Have you ever seen somebody burn ants alive with a magnifying glass? In this situation, your telescope is the magnifying glass, and your eyes are the ants. Get the picture?
4. No, your sunglasses will not help.
Unless your Ray-Bans have lenses made from welder's glass shade number 14 or higher, your eyes will still fry.
5. Instead, buy solar filters.
You know those glasses movie characters whip out whenever there is a solar eclipse? Those are solar filters. NASA says either these or hand-held solar viewers are “the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun.” Or welder's glass shade number 14 or higher, depending on what your local metallurgist has available.
6. And keep them on.
At some point while watching the eclipse, you may feel the temptation to remove your solar filters. Please resist this temptation. This will result in your staring at the Sun directly, which as we have discussed previously, is a bad idea.
7. Don't get creative.
Because you have solar filters, you might think you can stare at the Sun using a telescope or a camera now. Remember the ants and the magnifying glass? Unless you have solar filters built specifically for attaching to the lens of a telescope or camera, that rule still applies.
8. Know when the totality occurs.
NASA calls the totality—when the moon eclipses the Sun completely and the normally invisible corona of the Sun appears—"one of nature's most awesome sights." NASA says this is the one and only time you can stare directly at the Sun (because the moon is blocking it), so go ahead and take off your filters.
9. And know when it stops.
But put them right back on because that Sun is hot.
10. Thank NASA for all it does.
Scientists with advanced degrees in chemistry and aeronautical engineering do not have to tell you staring at the Sun is dangerous. They do it because they care about you. Learn more about NASA at NASA.gov. And ask them to share this article while you're at it. Happy viewing!