The August 2017 total solar eclipse is once in a lifetime event as it is for the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse will occur across the entire continental United States.
While the event will be a special one for those in the US, the country’s space agency is going to ensure that everyone across the world have a first row seat to the event through its multi-hour show, Eclipse Across America: Through the Eyes of NASA, during which it will show unprecedented live video of the celestial event, along with coverage of activities in parks, libraries, stadiums, festivals and museums across the nation, and on social media.
Viewers will also be treated with a number of images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station — each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event.
Coast to coast, from Oregon to South Carolina, 14 states will — over a span of almost two hours — experience more than two minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. When the Moon completely blocks the Sun, day will turn into night and make visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the Sun’s atmosphere. Bright stars and planets also will become visible. Using specialized solar viewing glasses or other equipment, all of North America will be able to view at least a partial eclipse lasting two to four hours.
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun. In the 70-mile-wide swath of the country that will experience a total eclipse, it’s safe to look at the total eclipse with your naked eyes only during the brief period of totality, which will last about two minutes, depending on your location.
An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially-eclipsed Sun is with a pinhole projector. With this method, sunlight streams through a small hole — such as a pencil hole in a piece of paper, or even the space between your fingers — onto a makeshift screen, such as a piece of paper or the ground. It’s important to watch the screen, not the Sun.