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How Your Family Can Safely View the Solar Eclipse

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the total Solar Eclipse, where the sun, moon, and earth line up. Occurring on August 21st, it’s the first one this century. Unfortunately, those of us in the Bayou City won’t get to experience totality – the moon will cover just 65-70 percent of the sun’s surface as seen in Houston. Still, it will be an amazing event to experience … if done safely.

When I was back home visiting my parents and the solar eclipse came up, my mom described what they would do during an eclipse when they were poor kids in Croatia.  They would find a piece of glass, light a match, and smoke it. Then watch the eclipse through that. I stared at her open mouthed. She took this for confusion. “You know… You light a fire and hold the glass to it to film it up, then you look at the eclipse – totally works!”

As an eye doctor, imagine my horror to know that this is what they did! I then wondered if people in general know how to safely view an eclipse. I quickly polled some friends… and no… they didn’t.

Do not attempt to observe the partial or annular phases of any eclipse with the naked eye. Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness. – NASA

Can’t you just wear sunglasses? No.

Fact :: You would have to wear more than 20 pairs of sunglasses to even remotely come close to safely viewing the eclipse. There is a very short list of approved filters.

Can I safely look at the eclipse for less than a minute total? No.

Fact :: Any time spent looking at the eclipse can cause lasting retinal damage. At the most, you can risk half a second, but do you really want to? I barely understand half a second in time dimension; does your child?

Thankfully, there are several options for safely viewing the solar eclipse are, and I’ve included my top recommendation below…

Make a Pinhole Projector

Pros :: This is the safest and most inexpensive method. 

Cons :: It isn’t a real life view

How-To :: Check out this informative video by NASA, and make it a family project!

Score Some Protective Eyewear {with appropriate filters}

Pros :: You’ll be able to safely view the actual eclipse.

Cons :: You will probably have to purchase the eyewear, as most of the libraries giving them out for free have run out. You also have to make sure all parties viewing it are wearing it exactly as needed.

How-To :: Should you decide to purchase protective eyewear, there are options. Number 14 welders glasses are approved, and are available at some welding supply outlets. You can also use Aluminized Mylar glasses {be sure you use a reputable vendor or ask your local optometrist, as there are several fakes on the market}. 

View the Eclipse via Television, Video, or Photograph **My Recommendation**

Pros :: You can view the eclipse over and over again.

Cons :: It isn’t a real-life view.

How-To :: All media outlets will be covering the eclipse. If you choose to photograph it, there is some equipment involved, and you can find instructions here

As for my personal choice? I will be skip the live viewing with my 2 1/2 year old and simply watch footage. This is easily the safest choice and ensures she doesn’t somehow take off her protective wear or look up while we are watching the projection.

Is your family ready to safely view the solar eclipse? What method(s) will you be using for safe viewing?

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