Safe Solar Eclipse Viewing Tips
photo courtesy EAS/ SJAA/AANC
 
Solar eclipses bring out the daytime sky watcher in everyone. You have may have seen how surprised people are when presented with a view of the Sun. After all, we have all been told to never look at the Sun. That is extremely good advice! However, as dedicated solar observers we know how to make viewing the Sun safe and enjoyable for all. 

Your #1 priority during solar viewing is to protect your eyesight! There are a few tips to always follow when observing the Sun, even during eclipses:

1. NEVER look directly at the Sun with your unshielded eyes.
2. NEVER look at the Sun with sunglasses.
3. NEVER look at the Sun through fog or clouds, or through a "shield" made from household materials. 

With that always-needed reminder out of the way, we will present a few ways you can safely observe our nearest star.

Image of people viewing the eclipse

Eclipse Shades & Solar Viewers
Look sharp when checking out the next eclipse with some cardboard solar shades! You can order them online, or you may even be able to buy them from your local museum or observatory's gift shop. You will want to double check their ratings to be certain that they are safe to use during an eclipse.

Solar Viewers work in very much the same way as eclipse shades, but are just a bit more robust in their construction, often being made of plastic instead of cardboard. Again, make sure you check their safety ratings before ordering them online.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP FOR OLDER ECLIPSE SHADES

If you have eclipse glasses that are a few years old (say, saved from the 2017 eclipse) hold them up to a bright light inside your house before using. If you see any light shining through tiny holes or cracks in the lenses, throw them out - do NOT use them!

a long refractor telescope pointed at the sun, and a sun funnel projector mounted on the eyepiece, seen on the bottom right showing the Sun.

Solar Projector

Observing the sun indirectly, via projection or other methods, is also perfect for eclipses. You can make a simple pinhole projector using a long cardboard tube or other handy implements around your home with this guide from the Exploratorium. If you would like to try other projection techniques, the Sun Funnel is great for small refractor telescopes. And depending on your needs you may find tools like the Sunspotter or Solarscope. You can find out more about methods of safely projecting the Sun's image on the AAS's guide to solar projection techniques.

 
A simple cardboard shield on the front of a telescope can make solar viewing much more comfortable.
A simple cardboard shield on the front of a telescope
makes solar observing much more comfortable. 

 
Glass Telescope Solar Filters
Checking out sunspots? A white light glass filter is one of your best options. Special coated glass filters attach to the ends of your telescope and offer a very nice white light view through your telescope. You can add different colored planetary filters in your eyepieces to add a touch of color or draw out certain details, such as granulation or differentiation between the umbra and penumbra in sunspots. You can also use solar film to cover the end of your telescope, but again, check their safety rating, and you must remember that any wrinkle or tear in the film renders the film unsafe to use, ever. A glass filter, while more expensive, is much more durable.

Specialized Solar Telescope

Do you want to see filaments and prominences? A hydrogen-alpha telescope is for you. They tend to be rather expensive, but do provide amazing views of the Sun's weather. Loops from flaming prominences, filaments, granulation, and more are all easily visible via these very amazing scopes. Your local astronomy club or park may offer solar observing via one of these amazing instruments, and it will be an experience you will never forget!


Watch Online!

What if you don't have access to any of the above tools? What if you do, but your weather forecast is full of clouds? What if you are nowhere near the eclipse path? You can watch streams of the eclipse live, online! There are now many sources of astronomy streams, especially for big events. You can find many by searching sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch for live eclipse streams. NASA, SLOOH, and the Exploratorium often offer comprehensive live eclipse coverage during these events on their YouTube pages, as well as other sites.

More Solar Eclipse Resources

Want more info about eclipses? Want to do some outreach? We have more resources on our Solar Eclipse Resource Page, including the wonderful "Yardstick Eclipse" demo and links to more observing guides and safety tips.

Stay safe, and may you have clear skies!


Last updated: June 2021
 
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