“It’s a total eclipse of…” the sun

Are you already making plans to watch the total solar eclipse on August 21st? It’s an exciting event, but while you enjoy the sight, you need to be sure you also protect your sight.

A total solar eclipse, like the one occurring on the 21st, happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, which briefly blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow across the earth. This will also cause the temperature to drop temporarily.

This eclipse, called the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, will completely obscure the sun over a stretch of land about 70 miles wide, stretching from the East Coast to the West Coast. Outside of that swath of land, others will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse.

How to protect yourself while watching

At any time, it’s important not to look into the sun with the naked eye. Looking directly at the sun can cause damage to your eyes — or even blindness.

If you’re planning to observe the total solar eclipse, you need to use a pair of solar viewing glasses that meet the international standard (ISO 12312-2) recommended by NASA. These glasses are manufactured by only four organizations: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.

Sunglasses are not appropriate protection for your eyes when gazing into the sun.

If you’re within the path of totality, where the sun is completely covered up by the moon, it is safe to look at the moon with the naked eye once totality is reached. But that’s only if you’re viewing a 100 percent total eclipse. Most locations across the country, including the Chattanooga area, are not.

Because of this, use solar viewing glasses, which will allow you to watch the moon’s path across the face of the sun.

If you plan on using a telescope, camera, binoculars or other device to view the eclipse, the device also needs a specialized solar filter for your protection. Wearing solar viewing glasses while looking through a magnifier of any sort does not protect you from eye damage.

Total solar eclipses will become rarer as the moon gets further away from the earth. Enjoy the sight, but be sure to take steps to protect your health while you do!