Early in 2017, a friend of mine made plans to head to Southern Illinois to view the upcoming Great American Eclipse. As good friends do, he included my wife and I in those plans, but unfortunately they fell through fairly early on, and I have to confess, I pretty much forgot about the eclipse. That is until my friend Brian at Warby Parker, sent me their fun, hilarious, and actually fairly informative parody music video. Check it out, you’ll laugh…
Pop culture wins me over, so now I’m incredibly stoked for the Great American Eclipse again. But by now early birds have booked all the hotel rooms, campsites, and any other extra space in the path of totality. So, if you’re like me, and you’re excited for the eclipse, but you’re not quite ready for it, check out this little guide.
What’s the Great American Eclipse?
You’ve probably heard people talking about the eclipse, but maybe you don’t know exactly what the fuss is all about. Maybe you don’t know much about astronomy, and that’s okay. Here’s a quick explanation…
On August 21, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States from west to east, for the first time in 99 years! All of North America will be able to see the eclipse to some degree, but only in the path of totality will see a full total eclipse in which the sun will be completely blocked out by the sun. The path of totality is roughly 71.45 miles at its widest point, and when the eclipse crosses over, anyone in that path will see complete darkness. Pretty interesting, right?
If you’d like to learn more, check out Warby Parker’s excellent Great American Eclipse page, which does a great job of explaining the eclipse for those of us who know nothing about astronomy!
How Much of the Great American Eclipse Will You See?
I’m not going to be in the path of totality here in the Quad Cities, but that doesn’t mean I won’t see anything. I checked out this handy website and learned that I’ll see 91.3% of a total eclipse, peaking at 1:14:56 pm, which is still pretty awesome! Plug in your zip code to see what percentage of a totality you’ll see and at what time it will peak where you’re at.
Where Can You Watch
Depending on where you live, you may want to leave home or work to watch the Great American Eclipse. Keep in mind that a lot of other people are doing this, so you’ll want to leave early, and not expect to be back right after the eclipse is done.
As you’re thinking about where to watch, consider a spot where you’ll have an unobstructed view of the sun’s trajectory. If you can get on the roof of a building (safely and legally) that might be a good place to watch. Otherwise consider a park, a field, or something similar. Anywhere free of trees and buildings. I’m considering setting up shop at one of Iowa’s Wildlife Management Areas. Remember anywhere that will take reservations has been booked for awhile; you may have to think outside the box and be prepared to go early if you want to snag a good spot.
Use Eye Protection
You can cause serious irreparable damage to your vision if you look at the eclipse without proper eye protection. For the record, your sunglasses are NOT proper eye protection.
The best option is eclipse glasses or viewers verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard. It’s coming down to the wire, so they’re getting a bit harder to find. Warby Parker is giving them away free at all of their locations, so if you’re near one of their stores, call or head over and ask if they still have any left at that location.
There are still some showing up as available on amazon, like these eclipse glasses made by Lunt, but if you want them to get here before the eclipse you’d better act now, and consider one day shipping! Unfortunately, there are tons of unscrupulous people out there trying to make a buck, so make sure you’re getting the real deal.
If you’re not near a Warby Parker, can’t get a pair ordered online in time, head to your local library! Many libraries have eclipse events going on, and tons are distributing glasses. Again, we’re closing in on the day, so act fast!
Oh no, I can’t get a pair of glasses, what do I do?
Don’t worry, just because you don’t have glasses doesn’t mean you can’t experience the eclipse. First of all, it’s still going to get dark in the middle of the day, and that’s pretty cool. You can experience that aspect of the Great American Eclipse with absolutely no preparation. Secondly, if you want to see the eclipse, but can’t get proper eye protection, you can make a pinhole projector. It’s a fairly easy project using stuff that you probably already have in your house, so check out NASA’s instructions for making one.
Have more questions about how to watch? Check out NASA’s Eclipse 101 guide for safety, for more information.
Not delays in the eclipse; you can count on that happening exactly as anticipated. But before, during, and after the eclipse, don’t expect to get anywhere quickly, especially if you’re near the path of totality. Traffic may be backed up, cell phone networks may be inundated, and pizza delivery will probably take awhile.
Just be patient. Pack a chair, some snacks, and something to drink. It sounds strange, but everything will move a lot quicker if we all take our time instead of trying to rush.
Enjoy the Great American Eclipse!
August 21 is almost here, but some people have been prepared for the eclipse all year long. If you haven’t prepared though, you’re not out of luck. In the next few days you can get as ready as you can, find a spot, prepare a suitable viewing method, and enjoy the Great American Eclipse viewing experience!