The Solar Eclipse for a Rest of Us

Totality watchers get a best show, though a distant incomparable series of people will be in partial-only territory. Here’s how to make a many of it.


The Christmas 2000 obscure was prejudiced only. For Fred Espenak, a limit “eclipse magnitude” (middle image) was 43%.
Fred Espenak

Over a years we’ve had a lot to contend about America’s sum obscure of a Sun entrance adult on Aug 21st. You can revisit a eclipse alighting page, and get internal maps as minute as we want. But as a broader maps in this article show, for a immeasurable infancy of people in North America, Central America, and northern South America, a obscure will be usually partial.

The prejudiced obscure crosses many of a Americas. The red lines give a Universal Time of mid-eclipse. The blue lines tell a obscure bulk (the percent of a Sun’s hole covered) during that time. Of totality’s 8,600-mile-long track, about 30% falls on land.
Sky Telescope, source:
Fred Espenak

Here are ways to make a many of it — though endangering your eyes.

How to Watch

The blindingly shining aspect of a Sun can be actually blinding, maybe permanently, if we glance during it for any length of time. And that also goes for a splendid prejudiced of a partially eclipsed Sun.

You have dual simple ways to watch safely: directly by a safe solar filter, or indirectly by projection.

Direct viewing: For this you’ll need a filter that’s privately designed for Sun viewing: one that reduces a Sun’s invisible infrared and ultraviolet rays as most as it does manifest light. All of a inexpensive small “eclipse glasses” that we’ve tested do fine, though only to be sure, demeanour for “ISO 12312-2” printed on them. Check a AAS’s protected businessman guidelines to safeguard your obscure eyeglasses aren’t fakes.

For binoculars or telescopes, we can buy solar-filter element done of potion or thin, metal-coated cosmetic film — possibly as a square we can cut with scissors to insert over a front of your optics, or pre-mounted in a dungeon sized to fit resolutely onto a front (don’t let it blow off!). Leave a film slack; wrinkles don’t matter, though stretching it will mist out a perspective and concede safety. When we tested several potion and thin-film solar filters few years back, we favourite a Baader Astro-Solar skinny film a best.

Projecting a Sun. Put binoculars on a tripod and indicate them sunward. Adding a card defense around them creates a vast shadowy area for observation a projected image.

Projection means raised an picture of a Sun onto a square of white paper and examination a paper. The oldest, simplest, though lowest projection process is to use a pinhole. For instance, take a prolonged box, cut a hole in one end, fasten aluminum foil over a hole, and put a pinhole in a foil. Tape white paper inside a other finish of a box, tighten it up, and cut a vast hole in a side so we can demeanour during a paper. Aim a pinhole during a Sun, and an picture of a Sun’s face will tumble on a paper.

But a picture will be really small and dim. Experiment with opposite sized pinholes. A vast one creates a picture splendid though fuzzy; a small one creates it pointy though dim.

Much improved is to use binoculars or a telescope to plan a big, splendid image, as shown on a subsequent page. Aim a instrument during a Sun (without looking in it! Move it around until a shade is minimized and light floods out of a eyepiece). On a telescope, use your lowest-power eyepiece. Focus a picture with a concentration doorknob and/or by relocating a paper throwing a picture closer or over back. If a scope’s orifice is incomparable than about 3 inches, cut a clean, 3-inch hole in skinny card and fasten it over a front. You don’t wish to let a deleterious volume of solar feverishness inside.

What To Watch For

Can we see any sunspots? Don’t get your hopes up; a Sun is good past a 2014 limit of a 11-year activity cycle, and a face these days is flattering quiet, infrequently totally blank. But if we do see a mark or two, they will be landmarks for events entrance up. If you’re raised a Sun’s picture onto paper, shake a paper to heed sunspots from small paper flaws.

First contact is a impulse when a corner of a Moon initial touches a Sun’s western edge. Find a accurate time of this eventuality for your plcae by clicking on this Google Map. But a Moon’s corner will take a small while after initial hit to land adequate to start to show. How good can we time when this happens? What’s a check as seen with your setup? Set your watch accurately beforehand.

As a Moon resting intrudes over onto a Sun, demeanour for irregularities display adult on a corner of a Moon’s silhouette. These are lunar mountains and valleys seen in form along a Moon’s limb. The Sun’s edge, by contrast, is ideally smooth.

Keep an eye on those sunspots. If a black lunar conformation approaches a vast one, and if you’re looking by a sincerely vast filtered scope, we should be means to see that, by comparison, a sunspot’s low umbra is not truly dark. Photos to a contrary, sunspot umbras gleam with about 20% a aspect liughtness of a rest of a Sun. They would seem blindingly shining if a rest of a Sun weren’t there and dictating a firmness of your solar filter.

As a obscure progresses, demeanour around during a landscape and blue sky. Is a blue apropos deeper and purer? You might be astounded by how most object has to be mislaid before a universe looks any different. This is a bulk of how good a eyes naturally adjust to changing lighting conditions.

If a prejudiced obscure during your site is low and a Sun becomes a skinny crescent, watch for a landscape to take on a somewhat alien, dulcet look, with shadows branch crisper than usual.

How deep will a obscure turn during your location? The Google Map tells this dual ways. The limit magnitude of a prejudiced obscure is a percent of a Sun’s diameter that a Moon will cover. The obscuration tells what fragment of a Sun’s surface area is covered. That’s also about how most light is mislaid (although a Sun’s hoop is a small dimmer around a edges than nearby a middle, a solar-atmosphere outcome called limb darkening).

Venus and Jupiter may turn manifest if a sky turns a low adequate blue. Venus is your initial try. Look for it 34° (about 3½ fists during arm’s length) to a Sun’s astronomical west. Next brightest is Jupiter, 50° to a Sun’s east.

Unless a obscure becomes sum or really scarcely so, we don’t have most wish for Mars (magnitude +1.8) some 8° west of a Sun, Regulus (+1.4) only 1° to a Sun’s east-southeast, and positively not Mercury, fainter still during +3.3, 10° to a Sun’s southeast.

Look for low dapples of object on a ground underneath trees. A root canopy might form many pinhole projectors, and during a prejudiced obscure any dot will uncover an matching dent. Or make small holes between a fingers of your dual hands laid opposite any other, as shown in a print during reduce left.

During a prejudiced eclipse, cranky dual hands so your fingers make a waffle pattern. The holes between them act as pinhole projectors to emanate small crescent Sun images in a shade below.
J. Kelly Beatty

And afterwards watch all solemnly tell in reverse, until a Moon’s final snippet slides off east into invisibility, and final hit ends a uncover until subsequent time.

And when is that?

The subsequent North American prejudiced obscure happens for a northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada around morning on Jun 10, 2021. Then scarcely all a continent is partially eclipsed on Oct 14, 2023, when an annular obscure runs from Oregon to Texas and points south.

The subsequent total solar obscure awaits North Americans on Apr 8, 2024, using from Mexico by Texas, a Midwest, northern New England, and a Maritimes. Again, roughly all of a continent will be partially eclipsed.


This essay creatively seemed in Sky Telescope‘s August 2017 issue. For some-more information about a eclipse, revisit a 2017 sum solar eclipse alighting page.


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