How to Track and Watch the Solar Eclipse

You can see the Moon completely block the sun during the eclipse, but only if you’re in the right place. Otherwise, the sun will be only partially covered so it looks like a crescent. The farther away you get from the path of totality, the Moon will cover less of the sun.

With the right apps you can figure out how much of the eclipse you’ll see from where you are, and you can find a better place to watch if you want. You’ll also need the right equipment to protect your eyes and safely view the eclipse.

Eclipse Apps

Solar Eclipse Timer My favorite app for tracking the solar eclipse is Solar Eclipse Timer from Gordon Telepun. The app tells you how much of the eclipse you’ll see from your current location and acts like your personal guide through the event. It also shows the actual eclipse times for your exact location. Bonus: It includes an Apple Watch app so you don’t miss any details before and during the event. Solar Eclipse Timer costs US$2.99.

Solar Eclipse 2017 by dateandtime.com Date and Time’s Solar Eclipse 2017 app gives you times and locations, visibility maps, animations showing what the eclipse will look like from the ground, and includes general eclipse information, too. Solar Eclipse 2017 is a free download, and a $0.99 in-app purchase removes the ads.

Solar Eclipse Timer and Solar Eclipse 2017 apps for the iPhone

Solar Eclipse Timer (left) and Solar Eclipse 2017 (right) let you track the event on your iPhone

Eclipse Safari With Eclipse Safari you can track the eclipse location, view an eclipse map, watch a countdown timer, look up related information from Space.com, and stay on top of eclipse news. Eclipse Safari is a free download on the App Store.

Eclipse Gear

Celestron EclipSmart 2x Power Viewers Solar Observing Kit Let’s get this safety tip right out there: Don’t look directly at the eclipse because you’ll permanently damage your eyes and could go blind.

If you’re going to try to observe the eclipse you need proper eye protection, and my favorite is the EclipSmart 2x Power Viewers Solar Observing Kit from Celestron. It’s ISO-12312-2 compliant, which means the lenses are designed to protect your eyes from the eclipse light. The lenses also offer 2x magnification, plus the kit includes an eclipse map, time tables, and eclipse facts. It’s $9.95 on Amazon and I expect it to be on backorder very soon.

The Celestron EclipSmart Solar Observing Kit for watching the solar eclipse

Celestron’s EclipSmart solar observing kit

If you find other eclipse viewing glasses you like better, or at least are in stock, make sure they’re ISO-12312-2 compliant. Otherwise you’re risking damaging your eyes.

Pinhole Projectors The tried-and-true way to watch eclipses without damaging your eyes is to make a pinhole projector. They’re easy and cheap to make since all you need is a box, a sheet of white paper, some aluminum foil, and a pin. The Time and Date website has great instructions on how to make one. Date and Time has great instructions on how to make one.

I’ve made even simpler pinhole projectors by punching a pinhole into one sheet of paper and aiming it at another. Just remember to always face away from the sun when you’re using a pinhole projector.

Where to Find Solar Eclipse Protective Eyewear

American Astronomical Society Getting your hands on solar eclipse glasses and other filters is no easy task the closer we get to the big day. The AAS is hoping to help some with its excellent list of companies making ISO-12312-2 certified glasses, plus they have a list of retailers you can check with to see if any are in stock.

Museums Check with your local museums because many have been selling ISO-compliant eclipse glasses for just a few dollars.

Libraries Many public libraries across the United States are giving away ISO-compliant glasses as part of their eclipse viewing events. Check with yours to see if they have any for for non-event viewers. You can also see which libraries are hosting events at the Space Science Institute’s Star_Net website.

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geoduck

Pinhole Projectors: The idea is a small hole will act like a pinhole lense if the surface it is projecting on is far away, the figure usually quoted is 100x the diameter of the hole or farther. So for a shoebox a piece of foil with a tiny pinhole will make a small image of the partially eclipsed sun on the other end of the box. A very small image But there’s a better way. In 1998, when I was going to an eclipse in Aruba I brought along a 16×16 chunk of pegboard. During the partial phases I found… Read more »

mrsmac

The pegboard is a great idea, and I’ll be sharing with my friends. I’m thinking if I set up my camera on a tripod, aim it at the driveway, then I could take photos of the images.

I remember doing the shoebox viewer when I was a young girl in school (and then having to write the always dreaded paper “What I learned during the eclipse”.) I live in the path of this eclipse, and I’m looking forward to the eclipse–and not having to write a paper afterwards. HA!