Thursday, August 17, 2017

Everything you need to know to safely view the Eclipse, even without glasses

A collection of tips on safely viewing the eclipse with young children and students.

My breath came a bit short just thinking of the cosmic events that had to perfectly align. Witnessing the tiny moon block its massive benefactor, the sun was an event I never forgot. Next week, my own kids have the chance to watch their first eclipse. To be honest, I'm a little scared.  Our district chose to send the children home so that we parents could keep a close eye on their viewing. It's a serious responsibility. Retina damage from the sun is an irreversible injury. This amazing collaboration in the heavens could easily turn tragic.

The good news is that you and your kids can watch the eclipse safely. Here's what you need to know.

1. Remind your students not to look at the sun. 

Personally, I wouldn't take responsibility for someone else's kid looking at the sun--even with glasses, but more in that in a minute. I'll be watching my three-year-old like a hawk to be sure that she doesn't look up. We will probably take some breaks and go inside where the temptation is less.

You need will to remind your kids not to look at the sun, because as the eclipse progresses, and the sun gets darker, their natural reflexes will not kick in. It will feel like early morning or late evening when you can get away with watching the sun as it rises or sets.

The difference is that when you are watching the sunset, you see the sun through a much thicker layer of atmosphere than at mid day. That layer of atmosphere blocks much of the suns intensity. Next week's eclipse is happening in the middle of the day, which should make for awesome viewing. However, the intensity of the rays that do make it to earth will still be high--and dangerous.

So, of you can't look up at the sun, how are you supposed to watch the eclipse?

2. Use glasses safely

What if you're determined to use glasses? I really prefer you just don't, but if you must please be safe. Be very sure you are using NASA certified glasses. Someone saw the chance to whip out a bunch of glasses on the cheap. You can sure that "Mr. On-the-Cheap" doesn't care whether your students can see tomorrow. He only cares about getting money. Use these recommendations from NASA on how to safely view the eclipse to be sure you're using your glasses correctly.

For my own kids, I'd prefer to just keep the looking down at the shadow.

3.Make an eclipse viewer. 

Really, you could just poke a hole in a sheet of paper and hold it above your head. The key to safe eclipse viewing is to look down at the shadow, not up at the actual sun. this viewer was made with my three-year-old in mind. I don't want her looking up for the sun at all. I remember using a similar viewer to view an eclipse over twenty years ago.

To make an eclipse viewer you'll need . . .

  • Some heavy packaging paper or wrapping paper tube
  • Tape
  • A cereal box
  • Scissors

1. Roll the paper into a tube and tape to secure.

Everything you need to know to safely view the Eclipse, even without glasses

2. Trace the bottom of the tube in the middle of the cereal box, and cut out the circle.

Everything you need to know to safely view the Eclipse, even without glasses

3. Insert the tube into the circle that you removed.

Everything you need to know to safely view the Eclipse, even without glasses

4. Adjust the angle of the tube so that it catches the maximum amount of sunlight, and use tape to fasten in place.

Everything you need to know to safely view the Eclipse, even without glasses

5. Enjoy watching the eclipse! The other great thing about this method is that it will work ok,even in cloudy weather. It's always likely that we'll need that plan B here in Alabama.

If this method doesn't seem like a great fit for you, check out these others.

If you're heading out to the zone of totality, definitely read these tips on attending the eclipse  from the Home School Scientist!

If you end up not being able to watch directly here's a link to NASA's Facebook live event, and a web-cast of the Eclipse. 

More helpful resources for learning about what's going on in the Eclipse

I hope Monday is as unforgettable for your children as my first eclipse all those years ago!

The Eclipse of 2017 will be an unforgettable science event! Make sure it's also a safe one even for the kids in your care by following these viewing tips. Even if you don't have glasses, you can have a great time with the Eclipse!

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I can't wait to hear what you have to say! Thanks for sharing.