SOLAR SNAP (Tips and Tricks)
Hello! My name is Doug Duncan. I’m a professional astronomer, formerly on the staff of the Hubble Space Telescope, and advisor to American Paper Optics. I’ve been chasing eclipses since my freshman year in college, and I’ve seen over a dozen. I want to share the excitement, tell you how to watch safely, and answer questions you may have.
- What causes a solar eclipse? If the moon goes in front of the sun and blocks its light, that’s a solar eclipe, also called eclipse of the sun.
- Is there dangerous radiation on the day of an eclipse? The sun on eclipse day is no different than on any other day. The sun is always dangerous to look at unless you protect your eyes! You wouldn’t stare at the sun any ordinary day, because it would hurt your eyes. If part of the sun is covered on eclipse day, even if only a little of the sun shows, it still can hurt your eyes. During the partial eclipse, you must protect your eyes to watch. Another way to put it – there’s no new or strange radiation on eclipse day, but the ordinary radiation from the sun is too bright to look at without protection.
- Can I wear sunglasses to watch the sun? NO, NO, NO! The special "safe solar eclipse glasses" are 1000 times darker than sunglasses. Get them here!
- How different is a TOTAL eclipse from a partial eclipse? A partial eclipse is interesting, fun to watch and take pictures of. You put eclipse-watching glasses over your eyes, and it takes one or two hours (depending on where you are) for the moon to slowly cross in front of the sun. I invented something called the Solar Snap Eclipse App, to make it easy to take pictures with your phone. Check it out here!
A TOTAL eclipse is unbelievable! It is impossible to explain how moving it is to someone who hasn’t seen it. It is so strange! People scream, shout, and celebrate. The sky darkens and the unearthly silver streamers of the sun’s corona stretch across the sky, while pink “flames” – prominences – decorate the sun’s edge. It gets cold. The landscape color changes, and it feels like the ordinary world is ending. All this lasts for just a few minutes. Comparing a partial eclipse to a total eclipse is like comparing a photo of the grand canyon to being in the canyon! It’s like comparing hearing a song with earbuds, to being at a concert and sitting right in front of the stage.
- So, should I drive to where the eclipse is total? Yes, if you possibly can. Bring food and water, and sun protection, because it will be very crowded and the partial eclipse lasts hours, so don’t get sunburned during it. People come to a total eclipse all the morning before it, but they all leave at once, so be prepared for a REALLY BIG TRAFFIC JAM!
Even better, come on my eclipse trip! For the 2017 eclipse, 300 people came with me to the Grand Tetons, and the trip sold out a year in advance. April 8, 2024, a total eclipse will pass just north of Austin, Texas. Totality will be twice as long as in 2017! I have a beautiful hotel booked at the best place to see the total eclipse, and another in downtown Austin. Fantastic speakers and a kid’s program are planned. My trips are designed to appeal to everyone – astronomy expertise is not needed. Experts and beginners enjoy my trips, and meet interesting people from all over. Click here for details and registration.
Remember, a common misconception is that if you’ve seen most of the sun covered you’ve seen most of the show. Isn’t a 90% eclipse 90% as good as total? Not at all! The sun is so bright that even a 99% eclipse does NOT show all the awesome things; you must see a total eclipse sometime in your life to experience this!