How to Plan for the Solar Eclipse6 min read

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The Solar Eclipse is Monday, August 21st, 2017

On August 21st, many of us in the United States have an opportunity to observe a total solar eclipse.  The last total solar eclipse that was viewable in the continental United States was on February 26, 1979.  This occurred in the north west part of the country, and only five states were in the path of totality.  Apparently, many people could not see much of anything due to cloud cover and rain.

Although this may not be a true ONCE in a lifetime opportunity, it is not something that comes around often.  We won’t have to wait another almost four decades till the next solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.  Regardless, this is still something you don’t want to miss.

Some of you may remember viewing a solar eclipse some years back.  There was an annular eclipse back on May 10, 1994.  An annular eclipse is different from a total eclipse.  In an annular eclipse, the moon does not completely cover the sun because the apparent diameter of the moon is smaller than the sun.  This results in the sun to look like a ring in the sky with the moon in its center.

I was in middle school during this eclipse (I lived in Michigan, which happened to be a great viewing location) and I distinctly remember this event.  We made eclipse viewers using shoe boxes, and all got out of class to watch the eclipse from the front parking lot of the school.

This memory is fun and all, but it makes me think about how I want my kiddos to remember moments like this.  Knowing that this is one of those things that will most likely be etched in their minds for the rest of their lives, I want myself, my hubby, and their siblings to be part of it.  I want them to have a great memory of the love and joy that surrounded this awe-inspiring moment.

Preparing for the Solar Eclipse

Read through the ideas offered in Make Memories that Last a Lifetime

This post offers ideas for both planning for memorable moments and how to take advantage of those that happen spontaneously.

Find out what time the eclipse will occur where you live

Check out this site to see the exact time the eclipse will start, be at its peak, and end:

Think about where you want to watch the eclipse

A few days prior, check out where the sun is in the sky at that point in time when the eclipse is supposed to happen in your area.  Confirm you will have a good view from where you plan to watch.  Give yourself enough days to check out a few locations if necessary.

Plan a trip

If the eclipse is not going to be within view from where you live, or if you want to get closer to the line of totality, plan a trip.

Eclipse Safety

Don’t look up at the sun during an eclipse

“Why?” you ask.  (I did)  If you do, it can permanently burn your retina and wipe out your central vision.  When the moon blocks part of the sun, your pupils will dilate, and the sun’s invisible ultraviolet light will do damage.  I’m not an eye doctor, so if you want to learn more, check out this video.

The Exceptions

Using glasses made specifically to view the eclipse 

  • These should be lenses that are ISO 12312-2
  • If lenses are scratched or damaged, don’t use
  • Sunglasses are NOT sufficient (no matter how much UVA or UVB protection they have)
  • For every 10 seconds you look up at the eclipse with the glasses, spend 10 minutes not looking to rest your eyes.

During totality

  • You must be in the path of totality
  • The moon must be completely blocking the sun during the point of totality

Don’t try to photograph the eclipse

Doing so could damage your camera, your phone, or your eye if you are looking through the viewfinder.  You can purchase special filters that you put in FRONT of the lens of your camera.

These filters can also be used on a telescope or binoculars.

If you have the viewing glasses, you can use those to cover the lens of your phone camera and take pictures safely.

Ways to View the Eclipse

1. Approved eclipse glasses

The price of these online have sky rocked in the past few weeks, so unfortunately, I don’t have a reliable source to recommend.  Try checking at the grocery store or a sporting goods store where you live and hopefully they will have some left.

2. With homemade eclipse viewer (pinhole projector)

You can take a box, cut two small holes in one end – one for viewing and one that will project the sun inside of the box.  Place a piece of tinfoil over the projection hole and use a pin to punch a tiny hole in the middle of it.  During the eclipse, put your back to the sun and look into the eye hole, making sure the projection hole is open to the sun (if you are covering it up with your face, your holes are too close together, or you need a bigger box).  Don’t ever look at the sun through the pin hole.
There are a ton of tutorials online that demonstrate this method as well as some others, so just search how to make an eclipse viewer or pinhole projector.

3. Using crosshatch with your hands

Put your back to the sun and hold your hands out so they cast a shadow on the ground in front of you.  Open your fingers and put one hand over the other, creating a sort of grid.  Look at the shadow on the ground, and you will see the sun projected inside of the shadow of the grid made with your fingers.

4. Through the shadow of a leafy tree

Look at the shadow of a leafy tree, and you will see crescent suns projected in the spots between the leaves.  Continue to observe, and you will see them getting smaller as the eclipse progresses.

5. During totality

As mentioned above, if you are in the path of totality, you can look up at the sun with no protection during the few minutes of totality.  Just make sure that the sun is completely blocked by the moon.


Previous Eclipses in the US

Info on the May 10, 1994 Annular Solar Eclipse,_1994

Find out when and where the eclipse will be viewable


Do you have plans to watch the eclipse on Monday, August 21st?  Share how you are going to make this a memorable moment for your family.


Feel free to drop me a line with any questions you may have!

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