On August 21st, people will gather from coast to coast to view a rare solar eclipse, especially in Missouri. The state will offer some of the best vantage points in the nation for witnessing this historic event. A 50-70 mile wide path of totality stretches from northwest to southeast Missouri. These areas will experience the longest periods of darkness in the country on Monday afternoon. Depending on your location, the eclipse should begin between 11:30 am and 12 noon, and last until 2:30-3:00 pm central time.
State and local agencies are coordinating efforts to ensure everyone has a safe viewing experience. Residents and visitors are strongly encouraged to follow all safety precautions for viewing the solar eclipse.
“There are a number of precautions you need to follow regarding eye safety,” said Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Dr. Randall Williams. “Looking directly at the sun during most parts of an eclipse can permanently damage your vision or blind you, but there are easy ways to view a solar eclipse safely, such as through eclipse glasses or pinhole projectors. Adults should take special care to help protect the eyes of children during this event.”
Outside of totality, the only safe way to safely look directly at the sun, during an eclipse or at any other time is through special-purpose solar filters. These solar filters are used in “eclipse glasses” or in hand-held solar viewers. They must meet a very specific worldwide standard known as ISO 12312-2. Ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, or homemade filters are not safe for looking at the sun.
Individuals who do not take proper precautions run the risk of damaging their retinas or possibly causing blindness. In areas outside the path of totality, where only part of the sun is blocked even at the peak of the eclipse, there is no safe time to look at the sun with the naked eye. Viewers must protect their eyes while watching the entire eclipse.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends the following steps for safely watching a solar eclipse:
- Carefully look at your solar filter or eclipse glasses before using them. If you see any scratches or damage, do not use them.
- Always read and follow all directions that come with the solar filter or eclipse glasses. Help children to be sure they use handheld solar viewers and eclipse glasses correctly.
- Before looking up at the bright sun, stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter-do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- The only time that you can look at the sun without a solar viewer is during a total eclipse. When the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets dark, you can remove your solar filter to watch this unique experience. Then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear very slightly, immediately use your solar viewer again to watch the remaining partial phase of the eclipse.
- Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other similar devices. This is important even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes. Your camera, telescope or binoculars could also be damaged.
- For information about where to get the proper eyewear or handheld viewers, check out the American Astronomical Society at https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/eyewear-viewers.
Safety precautions are also necessary if you are hoping to photograph the eclipse with your cellphone or camera. Cellphone users should consider taking photos when the sun is entirely covered by the moon, not before or after as it could damage the phone’s camera. Camera owners may take photos before or after the period of totality if they have a special solar camera filter to protect their camera from damage. Expert astronomers are the best source of information on the use of a special solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
AAO also points out that another way to see the eclipse is through a pinhole projection, which projects an image of the sun onto another surface, like paper, a wall or pavement. The image of the sun is safe to look at throughout the eclipse. More information on pinhole projectors and safe-viewing devices can be found at https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/project/how-to-make-a-pinhole-camera/.
For more information about eclipse viewing safety and other information related to the event, please visit https://www.mo.gov/eclipse/.