On April 8, 2024, the city of Rochester, NY will be treated to a rare and spectacular event - a total solar eclipse. This happens when the moon completely blocks out the sun, causing darkness during the day. It is truly a remarkable sight that can only be seen from a few places on Earth, and Rochester is one of them this year.
However, it is important to remember that viewing a total solar eclipse can be damaging to your eyes if not done safely. There’s a few different ways to protect yourself and your loved ones, so make sure you are prepared when that special time in April rolls around.
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
Before we dive into safe viewing methods, let's quickly go over what a total solar eclipse actually is. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on the Earth's surface. This shadow blocks out all direct sunlight, causing darkness during the day.
Why is it Important to View Safely?
The sun emits intense ultraviolet radiation which can cause serious eye damage if viewed directly. This is why it is crucial to take precautions when viewing a total solar eclipse. The intensity of the sun's rays are magnified during an eclipse, making it even more dangerous to look at without proper protection.
Safe Viewing Methods
The safest and most recommended way to view a total solar eclipse is through indirect methods such as projection or using special glasses designed for solar viewing. Here are some options to consider:
Solar Viewing Glasses
These special glasses are designed with a filter that blocks out harmful UV rays and allows you to safely view the eclipse. They can be purchased from reputable retailers, but make sure they meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.
In Rochester, you can buy your own officially branded Eclipse Glasses at the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s (RMSC) Gift Shop, at the front desk of the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium and online! Each pair costs $2.50.
Glasses can also be found at locations around the Greater Rochester Region, including Laughing Gull Chocolates, Heron Hill Winery, and the Memorial Art Gallery. For a full list of locations, click here.
If you don’t have a chance to grab glasses before the event, set up a pinhole projection instead! This method involves creating a small hole in a piece of cardboard or paper and projecting the image of the eclipse onto another surface, such as a wall or the ground. This is a safe way to indirectly view the eclipse without looking directly at it.
Learn how to make your own safe pinhole projector here.
If you have a telescope, you can use it to project the image of the eclipse onto a white surface. Just make sure to use proper solar filters on the telescope and never look through it directly.
Volunteer amateur astronomers, including folks from the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science, are planning to set up a few such devices at the RMSC on eclipse day – so you don’t have to!
Livestream or Virtual Reality
If you are unable to physically view the eclipse, there will most likely be live streams or virtual reality experiences available for viewing. This is a safe and convenient way to witness the event without risking eye damage.
What Not to Do
It is important to note that regular sunglasses, camera filters, or homemade filters are not safe for viewing a solar eclipse. They do not provide enough protection from the sun's harmful rays and can cause serious eye damage.
Additionally, never look directly at the sun during an eclipse, even if it is only partially covered. The intense UV rays can still cause harm to your eyes.
Witnessing a total solar eclipse is a unique and unforgettable experience, but it is important to do so safely. By using these proper viewing methods and precautions, you can protect your eyes while still enjoying this rare event. So, mark your calendars for April 8, 2024, and get ready for an incredible show in the skies above Rochester, NY!