Eclipse information and viewing safety tips

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Some of you may already know that there is a total solar eclipse headed for the U.S. August 21, 2017. The eclipse's path totality will run from near Portland Oregon to near Kansas City (St. Joseph, Mo., in direct path) and near Charleston, South Carolina. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible from anywhere on mainland United States since the total solar eclipse in March 1979. The next one will be in April 2024, but it will not be visible from nearly as many US locations as the 2017 eclipse.

The last time Wichita and most of Kansas saw a solar eclipse of this magnitude was back in 1994 on the May 10. The next time Wichita and most of Kansas will get this chance is with another almost full solar eclipse on June 11, 2048.

When considering the entire earth solar eclipses are not all that rare but usually you have to chase them where ever they happen to be occurring. In fact most calendaryears have 2 solar eclipses. The maximum number of solar eclipses that can take place in the same year is 5, but this is rare.

Solar eclipses can only happen around New Moon because of the alignment of Earth, the Moon, and the Sun which happens at that time. But this does not mean that eclipses of the Sun happen every New Moon night. The New Moon and the Sun also have to be near a lunar node, which happens a little less than 6 months apart, and lasts, on average, around 34.5 days. This period is called the eclipse season, and it is the only time that eclipses take place. The lunar nodes are 2 points where the plane of the Moon's orbital path around Earth meets Earth's orbital plane around the Sun, the ecliptic.

Believe it or not some people around the world see eclipses as evil omens that bring death, destruction, and disasters. One such misconception is that solar eclipses can be a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children. In some cultures, young children and pregnant women are asked to stay indoors during a solar eclipse. In many parts of India, people fast during a solar eclipse due to the belief that any food cooked while an eclipse happens will be poisonous. Not all superstitions surrounding solar eclipses are about doom. In Italy, for example, some people believe that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colorful than flowers planted any other time of the year. All of these ideas are, of course, untrue as there is no scientific evidence that solar eclipses can affect human behavior, health, or the environment.

However, it is essential that you protect your eyes. Never look directly into the sun, even during a total or partial eclipse. Homemade filters and regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. The simplest and quickest way to safely project the Sun is with a projector made from only 2 pieces of cardboard or paper. To make a quick version of the pinhole projector, take a sheet of paper and make a tiny hole in the middle of it using a pin or a thumbtack. Make sure that the hole is round and smooth. With your back towards the sun, hold a piece of paper above your shoulder allowing the Sun to shine on the paper. The 2nd sheet of paper will act as a screen. Hold it at a distance, such as arm’s length and you will see an inverted image of the Sun projected on the paper screen through the pinhole. To make the image of the Sun larger, hold the screen paper further away from the paper with the pinhole. Do not look at the sun even through the pin hole. There are other alternatives to viewing a solar eclipse such as “welders glasses’ and some vendors do sell “solar eclipse” glasses. Only use welder glass #14 or approved eclipse glasses when doing this and it is still recommended that only brief glances at the sun are attempted. To date four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Eclipses are best viewed directly when magnified, which means a telescope with a solar filter or solar telescopes. These will give you a magnified view that will clearly show the progress of an eclipse. Never look through a telescope without a solar filter on the large end of the scope and never use small solar filters that attach to the eyepiece (as found in some older, cheaper telescopes.)

More information including an interactive map with times, duration and amount of eclipse can be found at and Goddard Media Studios.

Happy viewing,