North Americans are up for a rare cosmic treat today. They will be treated to a partial solar eclipse where—depending on their location—the moon will block up to 90 percent of the sun.
The “meat” of the eclipse will be visible throughout much of western Canada and the United States. However, less dramatic versions of the event will be observable from East Coast of the U.S. and as far south as Mexico.
While today’s eclipse will only be “partial,” don’t let the qualifier dissuade you from checking it out. A solar eclipse—be it partial or total—is a comparatively rare celestial event that is always worth noting.
Lunar eclipses are observable over huge portions of the planet—anyone with an unobstructed view of the Ol’ McSkyCheese can watch as it slowly dips into the Earth’s shadow. A solar eclipse, however, only affects a small swath of earthly real estate. When the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, it casts a comparatively dainty (planetarily speaking) shadow. If you find yourself in a solar eclipse viewing area, you are part of a fortunate, but very tiny minority.
How to See Today’s Solar Eclipse Without Harming Your Eyes?
Your parents probably warned you about the perils of staring directly at the sun. That’s good advice that holds true even during an eclipse—either partial or total—even though the sun may appear dimmer. So, let us reiterate here: DON’T STARE AT THE SUN. Even if the sun was 99 percent covered by the moon (even during its peak that will not be the case with today’s eclipse), that remaining 1 percent can still be harmful.
If you want to safely watch the event unfold, then do it through a pair of welding goggles with a shade of at least 13. Alternatively, you might be able to find a cheap pair of “eclipse glasses” that are usually available for less than a dollar.
The lenses in your eyeballs, however, aren’t the only ones with which you need to be concerned. Your camera may be damaged by pointing it at the sun over an extended period. On its site, Nikon recommends purchasing special “solar filters” if you want to safely capture an eclipse. If you aren’t exactly sure how to go about it—then don’t attempt it with any gear of value.
If you didn’t prepare for today’s event and you don’t want to melt your eyeballs or hardware, you still have some options. You can always create a pinhole projection set-up using a cardboard box and a piece of tin foil. This will allow you to watch a projection of the eclipse evolve through its phases in real time. You can find a good step-by-step how-to here.
- Use a solar filter to protect your DSLR camera sensor
- Use protective eyewear, such as welder’s glasses
- Use a tripod or mount to avoid a blurry photo
- Manually focus your camera
- Set your camera settings before the solar eclipse — test those settings on a non-eclipse day
- Use a high ISO setting and high resolution — to keep exposures very short and prevent blurring from vibrations
- Look directly at the sun with your camera/eyes unless both are protected
- Use a smartphone
- Forget to share your solar eclipse photos at yourtake.usatoday.com, and tell us where the photo was taken
Have other solar eclipse photo tips that you’d like to share? Tweet us @YourTake or upload them us here.
When to Watch
New York City: The eclipse starts at 5:49 p.m. ET. The eclipse will still be going on as the sun sets at 6:03 p.m. ET.
Washington: The eclipse starts at 5:52 p.m. ET. The eclipse will still be going on as the sun sets at 6:17 p.m. ET.
Chicago: The eclipse starts at 4:36 p.m. CT. The eclipse will be at its maximum at 5:43 p.m. CT and the sun will set while still in eclipse.
Denver: The eclipse starts at 3:18 p.m. MT. The eclipse will be at its maximum at 4:35 p.m. MT and will end at 5:44 p.m. MDT.
Los Angeles: The eclipse will start at 2:08 p.m. PT. The eclipse will be at its maximum at 3:28 p.m. and will end at 4:40 p.m. PT.