It’s finally here, folks! The solar eclipse we’ve all been waiting for has its astronomical kickoff at 1:23 p.m. today (Monday, August 21, 2017), reaching its peak 70% coverage at 2:44 p.m. and concluding at around 4 p.m. For those who don’t want to step outside and experience the event in real life, NASA is streaming the solar eclipse live online here (or in the video box embedded below), which is a good thing for anyone who can’t resist staring at the sun without protection.
As you may have heard—from every TV show, newspaper and know-it-all in your life—staring at a solar eclipse is bad for your eyes. To be clear: Staring directly at the sun is bad for your eyes at any time, but most people are smart enough not to do this when it isn’t being devoured by the moon.
Fun Fact: NASA says it is safe to stare at the sun during the very brief period of totality, when it’s 100% covered by the moon, but that’s not going to happen while watching from the East End—we will only witness 70% coverage, so don’t even think about it.
Usually in times like this, people watch through eclipse glasses or eclipse filters—little mirror-like pieces of glass designed for such rare occasions—but all the hype has made these items very hard to acquire lately. Additionally, a number of unscrupulous vendors have been selling fake eclipse glasses that won’t actually protect one’s eyes from the harmful UV rays. If you ordered eclipse glasses from Amazon or eBay in anticipation of today, do an online search and make sure what you have is legitimate and not one of the recalled or substandard pairs of glasses.
Reputable vendors of legit eclipse glasses, according to NASA, should carry this international safety standard number: ISO 12312-2. If your filter or glasses carries this number, you can look at the sun through them as long as you like. Shade 12 or higher welder’s glasses are also safe to look through, if you happen to have one lying around.
Along with hearing everybody and their mother talking about not looking at the sun during the eclipse today, we’ve also heard some grumblings from people concerned their pets will be blinded by the eclipse. Not to worry, your dogs and cats don’t normally feel compelled to stare directly into the sun and burn out their retinas, so it’s highly unlikely they’ll suddenly decide to ignore thousands of years of instinct and do so today. Still, reading the article below might further prepare pet owners for this afternoon, and possibly even allay some of your fears.
Now that you have the facts, Hamptonites and North Forkers, we suggest you do go outside and experience the solar eclipse today—just don’t be dumb about it. Don’t stare at the sun without reputable protection, but take in the moment as the world gets quite a bit darker for a few hours. If you don’t have protection and you want to see the sun disappear behind the moon with perfect clarity, make sure to also check out the NASA livestream at nasa.gov/eclipselive, or use the embedded video box on this page.
This event is something you may not get to enjoy again.