How to Safely View a Solar Eclipse

Rare Partial Solar Eclipse Is Viewed Around The UK
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Solar eclipses are among the most dramatic celestial events you can witness. They give us a chance to witness parts of the Sun's atmosphere we otherwise never get to see. However, looking directly at the sun can be hazardous and viewing solar eclipses should only be done with safety measures firmly in place. 

Why Take Precautions?

Looking directly at the Sun at any time is unsafe, including during most eclipses.

It is only safe to do so during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse when the Moon blocks the light from the Sun.

Partial eclipses, annular eclipses and the partial phase of a total eclipse are never safe to view directly without taking precautions. Even when most of the Sun is obscured during the partial phase of a total solar eclipse, the portion that is still in sight is very bright and can not be viewed without eye protection. Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness. 

Safe Ways to Gaze

One safe method of viewing a solar eclipse is to use a Pinhole Projector. These devices use a small hole to project an upside-down image of the Sun onto a "screen" located a half-meter or more beyond the opening. A similar view can be created by interlacing your fingers and allowing the light to shine through to the ground below. You can also direct the Sun through the large end of a telescope and allow it to project out of the eyepiece onto a white wall or piece of paper.



Never use a telescope to look at the sun without a proper filter.

Filters can be used to look directly at the sun, but use caution. You can use welders goggles with a rating of 14 or higher, but don't use them to look through binoculars or a telescope. Some telescope and camera manufacturers sell metal-coated filters that are safe for viewing the Sun.

There are also specialty glasses which can be purchased for eclipse viewing. These can often be found advertised in astronomy and science magazines.You may have heard that looking at the Sun through a CD is safe. Don't even think about it. Stick to products that are marked safe for eclipse viewing.

Whether you're using filters, glasses, or pinhole projection, be careful. Only look at the Sun for a moment before looking away. Tiny holes in the filters can still subject your eyes to possible damage if viewed for extended periods. 

Above all — enjoy the view! 

Edited and updated by Carolyn Collins Petersen.