Compilation of articles for viewing the
Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017
Eclipse glasses source one of only 3 approved for safety.
American Paper Optics
Article 1 Safe viewing information:
The Sun can be viewed directly only when using filters specifically designed for this purpose. Such filters usually have a thin layer of aluminum, chromium or silver deposited on their surfaces that attenuates ultraviolet, visible, and infrared energy. One of the most widely available filters for safe solar viewing is a number 14 welder’s glass, available through welding supply outlets. More recently, aluminized mylar has become a popular, inexpensive alternative. Mylar can easily be cut with scissors and adapted to any kind of box or viewing device. A number of sources for solar filters are listed below. No filter is safe to use with any optical device (i.e. – telescope, binoculars, etc.) unless it has been specifically designed for that purpose. Experienced amateur and professional astronomers may also use one or two layers of completely exposed and fully developed black-and-white film, provided the film contains a silver emulsion. Since all developed color films lack silver, they are always unsafe for use in solar viewing.
Unsafe filters include color film, some non-silver black and white film, medical x-ray films with images on them, smoked glass, photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Solar filters designed to thread into eyepieces which are often sold with inexpensive telescopes are also dangerous. They should not be used for viewing the Sun at any time since they often crack from overheating. Do not experiment with other filters unless you are certain that they are safe. Damage to the eyes comes predominantly from invisible infrared wavelengths. The fact that the Sun appears dark in a filter or that you feel no discomfort does not guarantee that your eyes are safe. Avoid all unnecessary risks. Your local planetarium or amateur astronomy club is a good source for additional information.
How to View the 2017 Solar Eclipse Safely
Article 2 When and where is the 2017 solar eclipse? Plus more viewing information.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks any part of the sun. On Monday, August 21, 2017 a solar eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) across all of North America. The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a 60 to 70 mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total eclipse. During those brief moments when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for up to 2 minutes 40 seconds, day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere). Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. This is truly one of nature’s most awesome sights.
Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” (example shown at left) or handheld solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. To date three manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and hand-held solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, and Thousand Oaks Optical.
* Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, 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 glancing 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.
* If you are within 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 glance at the remaining partial phases.
An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. With your back to the sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse.
A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime. For more information visit http://www.aas.org and eclipse2017.nasa.gov.
This document does not constitute medical advice. Readers with questions should contact a qualified eye-care professional.
Article 3 Additional Safety Information
An eclipse is a rare and striking phenomenon you won’t want to miss, but you must carefully follow safety procedures. Don’t let the requisite warnings scare you away from witnessing this singular spectacle! You can experience the eclipse safely, but it is vital that you protect your eyes at all times with the proper solar filters. No matter what recommended technique you use, do not stare continuously at the sun. Take breaks and give your eyes a rest! Do not use sunglasses: they don’t offer your eyes sufficient protection. One excellent resource for safe solar eclipse viewing is here: http://www.nasa.gov/content/eye-safety-during-a-total-solar-eclipse
Viewing with Protection — Experts suggests that one widely available filter for safe solar viewing is number 14 welder’s glass. It is imperative that the welding hood houses a #14 or darker filter. Do not view through any welding glass if you do not know or cannot discern its shade number. Be advised that arc welders typically use glass with a shade much less than the necessary #14. A welding glass that permits you to see the landscape is not safe. Inexpensive eclipse glasses have special safety filters that appear similar to sunglasses, but these do permit safe viewing.
Telescopes with Solar Filters – Eclipses are best viewed directly when magnified, which means a telescope with a solar filter or solar telescopes. These will give you a magnified view that will clearly show the progress of an eclipse. Never look through a telescope without a solar filter on the large end of the scope. And never use small solar filters that attach to the eyepiece (as found in some older, cheaper telescopes.) Pinhole projectors — Pinhole projectors and other projection techniques are a safe, indirect viewing technique for observing an image of the sun. These provide a popular way for viewing solar eclipses.
Related projection methods –– One viewing technique is to project an image of the Sun onto a white surface with a projecting telescope. This is explained further here: http://www.astrosociety.org/education/publications/tnl/05/stars2.html. The Exploratorium demonstrates how to view a planet in transit or an eclipse safely by projecting the image with binoculars: http://www.exploratorium.edu/transit/how.html. There are commercially available projection telescopes as well.
Article 4 Eye Safety During a Total Solar Eclipse
It is never safe to look directly at the sun’s rays – even if the sun is partly obscured. When watching a partial eclipse you must wear eclipse glasses at all times if you want to face the sun, or use an alternate indirect method. This also applies during a total eclipse up until the time when the sun is completely and totally blocked.
During the short time when the moon completely obscures the sun – known as the period of totality – it is safe to look directly at the star, but it’s crucial that you know when to take off and put back on your glasses.
First and foremost: Check for local information on timing of when the total eclipse will begin and end. NASA’s page of eclipse times is a good place to start.
Second: The sun also provides important clues for when totality is about to start and end.
1) As the moon moves in front of the sun, there comes a time when several bright points of light shine around the moon’s edges. Known as Baily’s Beads, these are light rays from the sun streaming through the valleys along the moon’s horizon.
2) As the moon continues to move, the extent of these beads diminish, until there is only one – a bright spot that, in combination with the atmosphere of the sun still visible around the moon looks like a giant diamond ring. It is still not safe to look at the sun at this point! Only when that bright spot completely disappears can you safely look at the sun.
3) Once the bright “diamond” disappears and there is no longer any direct sunlight coming toward you, you may look at the total eclipse safely. But you must still be vigilant to make sure you protect your eyes again before the end of totality. The entire total eclipse may take only a minute or two in some locations.
4) As the moon continues to move across the face of the sun, a crescent will begin to grow larger on the opposite side from where the Baily’s Beads shone at the beginning. This crescent is the lower atmosphere of the sun, beginning to peek out from behind the
moon and it is your signal to stop looking directly at the eclipse. Make sure you have safety glasses back on – or are otherwise watching the eclipse through a safe, indirect method – before the first flash of sunlight appears around the edges of the moon.
5) Once your eyes are protected again, you may continue to watch the final stages of the eclipse as the end process mirrors the beginning: You will once again see a diamond ring and then the Baily’s Beads, before the entire sun is once again visible.
B. Ralph Chou, MSc, OD Associate Professor, School of Optometry, University of Waterloo Adapted from NASA RP 1383 Total Solar Eclipse of 1999 August 11, April 1997, p. 19.
A total solar eclipse is probably the most spectacular astronomical event that most people will experience in their lives. There is a great deal of interest in watching eclipses, and thousands of astronomers (both amateur and professional) travel around the world to observe and photograph them.
A solar eclipse offers students a unique opportunity to see a natural phenomenon that illustrates the basic principles of mathematics and science that are taught through elementary and secondary school. Indeed, many scientists (including astronomers!) have been inspired to study science as a result of seeing a total solar eclipse. Teachers can use eclipses to show how the laws of motion and the mathematics of orbital motion can predict the occurrence of eclipses. The use of pinhole cameras and telescopes or binoculars to observe an eclipse leads to an understanding of the optics of these devices. The rise and fall of environmental light levels during an eclipse illustrate the principles of radiometry and photometry, while biology classes can observe the associated behavior of plants and animals. It is also an opportunity for children of school age to contribute actively to scientific research – observations of contact timings at different locations along the eclipse path are useful in refining our knowledge of the orbital motions of the Moon and earth, and sketches and photographs of the solar corona can be used to build a three-dimensional picture of the Sun’s extended atmosphere during the eclipse.
However, observing the Sun can be dangerous if you do not take the proper precautions. The solar radiation that reaches the surface of Earth ranges from ultraviolet (UV) radiation at wavelengths longer than 290 nm to radio waves in the meter range. The tissues in the eye transmit a substantial part of the radiation between 380 and 1400 nm to the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye. While environmental exposure to UV radiation is known to contribute to the accelerated aging of the outer layers of the eye and the development of cataracts, the concern over improper viewing of the Sun during an eclipse is for the development of “eclipse blindness” or retinal burns.
Exposure of the retina to intense visible light causes damage to its light-sensitive rod and cone cells. The light triggers a series of complex chemical reactions within the cells which damages their ability to respond to a visual stimulus, and in extreme cases, can destroy them. The result is a loss of visual function which may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the damage. When a person looks repeatedly or for a long time at the Sun without proper protection for the eyes, this photochemical retinal damage may be accompanied by a thermal injury – the high level of visible and near-infrared radiation causes heating that literally cooks the exposed tissue. This thermal injury or photocoagulation destroys the rods and cones, creating a small blind area. The danger to vision is significant because photic retinal injuries occur without any feeling of pain (there are no pain receptors in the retina), and the visual effects do not occur for at least several hours after the damage is done [Pitts, 1993].
The only time that the Sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye is during a total eclipse, when the Moon completely covers the disk of the Sun. It is never safe to look at a partial or annular eclipse, or the partial phases of a total solar eclipse, without the proper equipment and techniques. Even when 99% of the Sun’s surface (the photosphere) is obscured during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining crescent Sun is still intense enough to cause a retinal burn, even though illumination levels are comparable to twilight [Chou, 1981, 1996; Marsh, 1982]. Failure to use proper observing methods may result in permanent eye damage or severe visual loss. This can have important adverse effects on career choices and earning potential, since it has been shown that most individuals who sustain eclipse-related eye injuries are children and young adults [Penner and McNair, 1966; Chou and Krailo, 1981].
The same techniques for observing the Sun outside of eclipses are used to view and photograph annular solar eclipses and the partly eclipsed Sun [Sherrod, 1981; Pasachoff & Menzel 1992; Pasachoff & Covington, 1993; Reynolds & Sweetsir, 1995]. The safest and most inexpensive method is by projection. A pinhole or small opening is used to form an image of the Sun on a screen placed about a meter behind the opening. Multiple openings in perfboard, in a loosely woven straw hat, or even between interlaced fingers can be used to cast a pattern of solar images on a screen. A similar effect is seen on the ground below a broad-leafed tree: the many “pinholes” formed by overlapping leaves creates hundreds of crescent-shaped images. Binoculars or a small telescope mounted on a tripod can also be used to project a magnified image of the Sun onto a white card. All of these methods can be used to provide a safe view of the partial phases of an eclipse to a group of observers, but care must be taken to ensure that no one looks through the device. The main advantage of the projection methods is that nobody is looking directly at the Sun. The disadvantage of the pinhole method is that the screen must be placed at least a meter behind the opening to get a solar image that is large enough to see easily.
The Sun can only be viewed directly when filters specially designed to protect the eyes are used. Most such filters have a thin layer of chromium alloy or aluminum deposited on their surfaces that attenuates both visible and near-infrared radiation. A safe solar filter should transmit less than 0.003% (density~4.5) of visible light (380 to 780 nm) and no more than 0.5% (density~2.3) of the near-infrared radiation (780 to 1400 nm). Figure 24 shows the spectral response for a selection of safe solar filters.
One of the most widely available filters for safe solar viewing is shade number 14 welder’s glass, which can be obtained from welding supply outlets. A popular inexpensive alternative is aluminized mylar manufactured specifically for solar observation. (“Space blankets” and aluminized mylar used in gardening are not suitable for this purpose!) Unlike the welding glass, mylar can be cut to fit any viewing device, and doesn’t break when dropped. Many experienced solar observers use one or two layers of black-and-white film that has been fully exposed to light and developed to maximum density. The metallic silver contained in the film emulsion is the protective filter. Some of the newer black and white films use dyes instead of silver and these are unsafe. Black-and-white negatives with images on it (e.g., medical x-rays) are also not suitable. More recently, solar observers have used floppy disks and compact disks (both CDs and CD-
ROMs) as protective filters by covering the central openings and looking through the disk media. However, the optical quality of the solar image formed by a floppy disk or CD is relatively poor compared to mylar or welder’s glass. Some CDs are made with very thin aluminum coatings which are not safe – if you can see through the CD in normal room lighting, don’t use it!! No filter should be used with an optical device (e.g. binoculars, telescope, camera) unless it has been specifically designed for that purpose and is mounted at the front end (i.e., end towards the Sun). Some sources of solar filters are listed in the following section.
Unsafe filters include all color film, black-and-white film that contains no silver, photographic negatives with images on them (x-rays and snapshots), smoked glass, sunglasses (single or multiple pairs), photographic neutral density filters and polarizing filters. Most of these transmit high levels of invisible infrared radiation which can cause a thermal retinal burn (see Figure 24). The fact that the Sun appears dim, or that you feel no discomfort when looking at the Sun through the filter, is no guarantee that your eyes are safe. Solar filters designed to thread into eyepieces that are often provided with inexpensive telescopes are also unsafe. These glass filters can crack unexpectedly from overheating when the telescope is pointed at the Sun, and retinal damage can occur faster than the observer can move the eye from the eyepiece. Avoid unnecessary risks. Your local planetarium, science center, or amateur astronomy club can provide additional information on how to observe the eclipse safely.
There has been concern expressed about the possibility that UVA radiation (wavelengths between 315 and 380 nm) in sunlight may also adversely affect the retina [Del Priore, 1991]. While there is some experimental evidence for this, it only applies to the special case of aphakia, where the natural lens of the eye has been removed because of cataract or injury, and no UV-blocking spectacle, contact or intraocular lens has been fitted. In an intact normal human eye, UVA radiation does not reach the retina because it is absorbed by the crystalline lens. In aphakia, normal environmental exposure to solar UV radiation may indeed cause chronic retinal damage. However, the solar filter materials discussed in this article attenuate solar UV radiation to a level well below the minimum permissible occupational exposure for UVA (ACGIH, 1994), so an aphakic observer is at no additional risk of retinal damage when looking at the Sun through a proper solar filter.
In the days and weeks preceding a solar eclipse, there are often news stories and announcements in the media, warning about the dangers of looking at the eclipse. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions behind these messages, they frequently contain misinformation, and may be designed to scare people from seeing the eclipse at all. However, this tactic may backfire, particularly when the messages are intended for students. A student who heeds warnings from teachers and other authorities not to view the eclipse because of the danger to vision, and learns later that other students did see it safely, may feel cheated out of the experience. Having now learned that the authority figure was wrong on one occasion, how is this student going to react when other health-related advice about drugs, alcohol, AIDS, or smoking is given [Pasachoff, 1997] Misinformation may be just as bad, if not worse than no information at all.
In spite of these precautions, the total phase (and only the total phase) of an eclipse can and should be viewed without filters. It is crucial that you know when to take off and put back on your glasses; see Eye safety during a total solar eclipse