On August 21st, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States from coast to coast for the first time in nearly a century. The event has been a boon to the tourism and hotel industries of towns like Nashville, Tennessee, and Charleston, South Carolina that are in the path of the Moon’s shadow. Whether you’re flying or driving to one of these towns, or just camping out in your backyard, here are the gadgets you will need to get a good look at the Moon and the Sun — while keeping your eyes and devices protected.
Solar Filter Sunglasses
Staring at the Sun is dangerous, so you need to protect your eyes. Any old pair of sunglasses glasses won’t cut it, so make sure to get a pair of solar filter glasses that meets the proper standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). There’s this 5-pack from Lunt Solar Systems that also has a kid size available, but any certified brand like Rainbow Symphony (which has largely sold out) and American Paper Optics will work.
Starbound Astronomy Viewing Chair, White
The shape of this chair is specifically designed so you can tilt your head back comfortably in order to do some stargazing (after putting on your solar filter glasses, of course). And its adjustable seat makes it compatible with a variety of telescopes.
No eclipse-gazing trip is complete without an app or two. The Sky Guide: View Stars Night or Day app by Fifth Star Labs — which received an average of five stars from 5,913 ratings — might make stargazing into a regular activity for you, if it isn’t already. The app identifies constellations, planets, and other space objects as you hold your phone to the sky. A new update to the app lets you track the eclipse’s path and even simulate the eclipse in real time if you’re unable to travel or if you experience cloudy weather on August 21st. The app costs $2.99, and there’s also an Apple Watch version.
Eclipse viewing will require you to be outside, possibly for a few hours as you secure a nice spot to observe the celestial event. A travel towel can help keep your telescope and viewing chair clean. It also provides a place for your to sit on the ground as you wait. This Youphoria Sport Microfiber travel towel sounds corny because of the pun but it’s a best-seller on Amazon. There are multiple sizes and colors to choose from.
Camera and Camera Filter
If you want to take a nice shot of the eclipse, you’ll need a camera that’s either a DSLR or has full manual controls. You’ll also need a special filter to protect your lens (and your eyes) from the Sun’s light. The 4 x 4-inch solar filter sheet by Thousand Oaks Optical — a NASA-certified brand — will do the job. If you’re going to be shooting the eclipse, check out this guide here.
Although a telescope isn’t required to grab a good look of the eclipse, there are some decently priced options if you’d like to elevate your stargazing experience. The Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker telescope loses one star on its Amazon rating for being limited in its views of faraway planets, but it’s good enough for viewing the Moon or Mars. It costs $135.14, but remember you also need to buy a solar filter, which can add another $40 or so.
No party’s complete without music. So here’s a playlist I’ve started with plenty of space jams to accompany the total or partial eclipse you’ll be seeing. Special thanks to Dani Deahl and Tasha Robinson for contributing their songs to the list.
These are the bare essentials for getting your eclipse-viewing party started. Other stuff, like getting eclipse shirts and coasters, is really up to you. I’ll be enjoying the partial eclipse from The Verge’s New York office, wearing the certified eclipse-viewing glasses I got from Loren Grush, listening to the eclipse playlist, poised to send a video of the view to all my friends through Snapchat. Regardless of what you choose for the big day, you’ll be in for a visual treat.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.
Do you have an unusual story to tell? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org