Safe ways to view the solar eclipse

In Columbus, a partial solar eclipse will occur Monday, August 21 at 2:37 p.m. edt. If you plan to watch it, you’ll need solar eclipse glasses to protect your eyes.

“Your eye is not designed to look directly at the sun. If you do, the light overwhelms your eye in a very short amount of time and can do permanent damage to both the little cells inside your eye and the retina at the back of your eye,” Dr. Williams says.

Dr. Rosa Williams is a Columbus State University Astronomy Professor and the head of the West Rock Observatory at CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

“If you’re going to look at the solar eclipse directly, you want to use a pair of eclipse glasses that have enough filter strength that will prevent the sunlight from harming your eyes.”

The proper eyewear should have ISO 12312-2 printed on the glasses.

It’s also important to avoid looking at the sun with binoculars, cameras or telescopes without special solar filters. This not only damages your eyes, but can also damage the camera.

The glass does not protect your eyes from the sun and actually magnifies them – putting them at an even greater risk for damage.

“If you look with binoculars or some other optical instrument, it’s much, much worse and you can do permanent damage in a very short fraction of time.”

If you were to take a picture or video with your smart phone, you can tape a pair of solar glasses over the camera and look through the phone screen only – that way your phone camera and lens are protected. If you’re going to look directly up at the sun, you’ll need the glasses over your eyes too.

In Columbus, 92% of the sun will be blocked by the moon and it will get dim for around two minutes. If you’re viewing the solar eclipse, you’ll need to keep the glasses on the entire time. If you are in the path of totality however, you can take off your glasses briefly when the moon fully covers the sun for a little over two minutes.

The safest and least expensive way to view the solar eclipse is through pinhole projection.

“That is, projecting the sunlight through some sort of screen in order to see a picture of the sun on the ground or on another screen.”

The easiest way to do this is to cut out a small hole in a thin sheet of cardboard (like from a cereal box) and hold it over the sidewalk or another piece of cardboard. The round image of the sun will be projected on the cardboard or sidewalk. When the eclipse is happening, the image of the sun will slowly turn into a crescent!


You can also use a strainer or colander to see little crescents on the ground.

Look closely in the shadows of trees and you’ll notice the same effect!

While we’ll only notice environmental differences outside briefly at 2:37 p.m. edt, the solar eclipse will start around 1:00 p.m. edt and end at 4:00 p.m. edt. The pinhole projection method will showcase the whole eclipse over this time period.

A fun experiment would be to observe the projection each hour to see how the circle changes to a crescent and then returns back to a full circle at the last phase of the eclipse around 4:00 p.m. edt.

No matter how you view the solar eclipse, it all depends on the weather! If it is overcast or rainy, none of these methods will work because you won’t be able to see the eclipse. We have the latest forecasts for the eclipse here.

CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center will be LIVE streaming the solar eclipse from across the nation there. The public is welcome to come out for the free viewing at the center with other activities going on!

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