SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017: What you need to know

EDITOR’S NOTE: With one week until the solar eclipse, West Seattle’s best-known sky-watcher is continuing to offer helpful info – in this report, the basics about the eclipse and safely watching it. Still to come, a list of where to eclipse-watch in West Seattle!

By Alice Enevoldsen
Special to West Seattle Blog

Are you ready for the big solar eclipse that’s now one week away, on August 21?

No?

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

QUICK FACTS

Date:
Monday, August 21, 2017

Times:
Start of partial eclipse: 9:08 am

Maximum eclipse: 10:20 am — Coverage of the Sun: 92%

End of partial eclipse: 11:56 am

Visible from West Seattle? Yes … but read on for caveats

Special Equipment Needed? Yes: safe observing glasses or a pinhole viewer. (Here’s where to look and, in the comment section, where WSB readers are finding them.) Read on!

VIEWING FROM WEST SEATTLE

This event will be visible from West Seattle (and all of Seattle), but from here it will be a partial eclipse. It will not get dark. This is why I and a million — I mean that literally — other people are planning to drive to Oregon to see the total eclipse.

During the eclipse, the Moon will cover 92% of the Sun as seen from West Seattle. For comparison, the annular eclipse of 2012 had the Moon covering 94% of the Sun if you were in the path of the umbra, the darkest part of the shadow. I was in California in the umbra during that eclipse, and it got noticeably less bright outside, like a cloudy day, and a lot cooler suddenly. I predict similar effects in Seattle: not total darkness.

This shows approximately how much of the Sun will show behind the Moon when the Moon covers 90% of the Sun.

Where should you look to see this event? At the Sun, which brings me to my next section:

SOLAR ECLIPSE VIEWING SAFETY

You absolutely need special equipment to see this event safely. Luckily the special equipment isn’t spendy, and some can be made at home.

Option 1: Eclipse Glasses

Eclipse glasses are also called solar observing glasses and they are not related to sunglasses. There are only a handful of companies that make glasses that meet the current international standard of safety. Luckily, those companies make most of the glasses that are sold.

There has been a scare about fakes being sold online, many through conglomerate vendors like Amazon. This does NOT mean that all glasses purchased through Amazon are fakes. Amazon hosts individual vendors, and many of those vendors are entirely reputable. The list maintained by the American Astronomical Society includes the names of several sub-vendors within Amazon that are safe.

To use glasses safely:

Check that they are marked compliant with the safety standard ISO 12312-2:2015

Check that the lenses are flat and free from scratches, punctures, or damage. Discard them if there are problems.

Stand still, looking away from the Sun.

Put on the glasses.

Look toward the Sun.

If the Sun looks bright, or your eyes get tired from the glare, then the filter is letting too much light though. Look away and use a different filter.

When finished viewing:

Turn away from the Sun.

Remove the glasses.

(Again, here’s updated availability information from eclipse-glasses-shopping WSB readers.)

Children must be supervised when viewing the Sun using any method. That said, even children as young as 2½ or 3 can safely use eclipse glasses with a little help. You do not need a different size of glasses for children, but you will need to modify them. To keep the glasses positioned correctly, punch holes in the back of the temples of the glasses, behind the ears. Attach a string, elastic (a cut hairband works well), or a pipe cleaner to both ends while your child is wearing the glasses.

(Eclipse glasses modified for young children)

(Kids demonstrating the correct usage of “adult-sized” solar viewing glasses)

Option 2: Pinhole Projection

The second method I will mention is called pinhole projection. You already have, in your hands, all the tools you need to do this method.

Rule #1 of pinhole projection: NEVER look at the Sun.

Turn your back to the Sun and look at your shadow.

Next make a “pinhole,” or several: if you cross the fingers of one hand over the fingers of the other you make a waffle pattern. Keep your fingers spaced far enough apart to make visible holes between them.

You can also use a colander/spaghetti strainer or something similar.

Look at the shadow of your hands on the ground, or perhaps something smoother like a piece of paper. Every space between your fingers will cast an image of the eclipsed Sun on the ground.

You’ll find yourself “holding” half a dozen eclipses!

(Using a colander to project an array of images of the Sun on the flat surface of an open umbrella)

There are ways to improve this, of course, such as building a simple pinhole projector. Find the longest box you can, width doesn’t matter, and cut two holes: one in one flat end and one “window” on the side of the far end. Cover the first end with aluminum foil and poke one tiny hole in it with a pushpin. Place white paper inside the far end. There are detailed instructions all over the internet, just don’t look through the pinhole.

To use your pinhole projector:

Don’t forget Rule #1! NEVER look at the Sun!

Turn your back on the Sun, and hold your projector so the pinhole points behind you.

Watch the “far” end of your projector and tilt it around until the shadow of your projector on the ground is as small as possible.

Once the shadow looks just like the shape of the end of your box, look inside your window, down at the white paper: away from the Sun.

Keep moving the projector slightly up and down or side to side until you see a small bright dot shine on the white paper. If your projector is 4½ feet long, like mine, the dot will be about the size of the tip of your pinky finger, but it is an image of the Sun!

(Viewing a projected image of the Sun using a pinhole projector)

SAFETY DURING THE ECLIPSE

Please remember that it is the peak of August, and use appropriate heat and Sun-exposure precautions when viewing the eclipse.

*Drink plenty of water

*Wear sunscreen or sun-protective clothing

*Watch for signs of heat-exhaustion

If you are travelling to Oregon for the eclipse, be aware that the Office of Emergency Management is expecting significantly more visitors than usual to the area.

*Be prepared for traffic jams as if entering or exiting an area in a state of emergency.

*Be prepared to stay hours or even a day longer than you planned.

*Be prepared for significant heat, wildfires, and long waits anywhere that provides services.

Resources:

NASA Eclipse 2017
Interactive Google Map #1*
Interactive Google Map #2 (works better on phones than #1)
American Astronomical Society Eclipse 2017
Mr. Eclipse
Stellarium: free planetarium software for your home computer, or Android device. Bring up the sky for anywhere in the world, any time and date in history or the future.
Clear Sky Chart: the astronomer’s forecast for the next couple days. Cloudcover, darkness, and “seeing” which is how nice it is to view the stars, all on one handy chart.
USNO: dates and times of astronomical happenings.
International Dark Sky Association: how to help your neighbors enjoy the night sky.

Who is Alice?
Although she is an astronomy instructor for South Seattle College and a volunteer with NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors program, the suggestions and opinions put forth in this article are Alice’s own and not those of any of those organizations. You can find more about astronomy from Alice at alicesastroinfo.com or on Twitter as @AlicesAstroInfo and Facebook.

46 Replies to "SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017: What you need to know"

  • Toni Reineke August 14, 2017 (10:19 pm)

     Way to go, Alice! Thank you!!!!

     

    • hts August 17, 2017 (1:12 pm)

      Our safety glasses have ISO 12312-2 without the “:2015” at the very end. Do those meet the correct standards? I purchased them at Fred Meyer upon recommendation of one of Seattle librarians who said that’s where they were getting their free glasses from (they had run out, so he recommended Fred Meyer).

      The brand says:
      “Explore Scientific LLC

      1010 S 48th Street

      Springdale AR 72762

      http://www.exploreone.com

      1-866-252-3811

      Anyone have further info on these glasses? Thanks for any responses.

      • sam-c August 17, 2017 (2:27 pm)

        Those are the ones we got.  I found Explore One listed as an acceptable manufacturer on one of the NASA lists (don’t have www link at the moment though)

      • Abby August 17, 2017 (4:08 pm)

        I have solar eclipse glasses I’m selling for $20 a pair for $15 when you buy four more. I bought them from Fred Meyer originally I have the receipt and they are certified.

        • Rob August 17, 2017 (6:43 pm)

          Hey Abby, my wife and I are still looking for glasses. Where can we meet you to purchase a few?

      • helen August 17, 2017 (9:59 pm)

        i believe this is good to go

      • Alice August 19, 2017 (4:49 am)

        The “2015” isn’t necessary. The AAS had a list of approved vendors/manufacturers and Explore Scientific is approved: https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters

  • Swede. August 14, 2017 (10:29 pm)

    Great info! 

    As for glasses you can use a welding hood or goggles too, IF they are of shade 14. Can likely find cheap ones at Harbor Freight in Georgetown. That’s what I’ll be rocking (but a top-of-the-line Speedglas, which would be super overkill for a one time user)

    • Alice August 15, 2017 (9:50 pm)

      I had heard that welding glass #14 was also sold out. But yes– ONLY #14! 

      :)

  • Jeannie August 15, 2017 (5:23 am)

    Thanks, Alice! Assuming we have clear skies, is there a particularly good place in West Seattle to view the eclipse, where the view isn’t blocked?

    • Alice August 15, 2017 (9:51 pm)

      Anywhere you can see the Sun in the morning.  I’ve been recommending the High Point Library’s event, as well as any choice near water to cope with the heat.

  • ACG August 15, 2017 (6:53 am)

    Thanks, Alice!!  I always appreciate your contributions to the Blog!

  • KM August 15, 2017 (9:26 am)

    Great details! Am I incorrect in thinking it will get a little darker outside, noticeable for us who are not planning on looking up at the sun? Thinking it would be cool to sit outside and just observe, (maybe meditate?) without looking up.

    • WSB August 15, 2017 (9:38 am)

      I recall the 7/11/1991 solar eclipse – we had just been here a few months, and it was a memorable day because my brother announced the birth of his nephew; I worked swing shift in TV and usually walked to Alki and watched the water a while before going to work – I remember the light being dimmer, though, checking archives now, Seattle only had 20 percent coverage. So I’d think we’ll see some dimming at 92 percent! – TR

      • KM August 15, 2017 (12:03 pm)

        So neat–I also remember that one as well, living in a different part of the state. We were at a summer basketball camp all filed outside and used the pinhole projection to take it in.

    • Trickycoolj August 15, 2017 (4:44 pm)

      Can’t wait! Watched the total eclipse in Europe from Austria with my dad and grandpa high in the alps and got a brief glimpse of the corona as it was partly cloudy that day. The ambient light was like dusk and early evening, you could see stars and the cows all layed down to sleep. Within minutes it got bright outside again. Really surreal. My grandpa was an avid stargazer and told me there would be a total eclipse in my lifetime right where I live in 2017, he said he may not be around for it but I would and should see it. I am lucky that my mom recently relocated to the Portland area and have a free place to stay. I can’t wait to carry on my grandpa’s hobby and see my second total eclipse. 

    • Alice August 15, 2017 (9:52 pm)

      Yes, like when a decent cloud passes in front of the Sun: more than a wispy nothing, but not as much as our fall evening thunderstorms dark.

  • david geow August 15, 2017 (10:28 am)

    Thanks for the great info. Where were you in 1979 when I was lucky enough to be in Olympia, one of the few places in the PNW where the rain clouds parted briefly enough to see the sun’s corona during full coverage?

    Is it okay to view the sun directly or from a sideways angle through cameral lenses (with or without filters on the camera)?  Thanks. 

     

    • Alice August 16, 2017 (1:56 am)

      Any kind of viewing through lenses at all absolutely requires the right kind of solar filters for that lens. You can get camera lens solar filters… Locally the first place I’d check is Cloud Break Optics, but if Glazier’s (Glaser’s?) Camera is still around they would probably have something.

      I welcome other suggestions of places to shop, I’m simply listing everywhere I know that is local.

  • emcat8 August 15, 2017 (11:19 am)

    I’m so bummed–I feel like there’s no hope of getting any glasses to view it at this point, but I’ve been dealing with a cancer diagnosis and haven’t had much time for a lot else, so I guess I missed my window. Seems like as soon as they are stocked anywhere, they get sold out. :-(

    • Myles August 15, 2017 (12:52 pm)

      Emcat8, 

      I have a few extras – how could I get them to you?

      – Myles 

      • emcat8 August 15, 2017 (11:22 pm)

        Myles–wow, that would be wonderful, and I’d be happy to pay for them! If you wanted to email me directly I am at emcat8 at yahoo. com That is so generous of you, I kept checking everywhere and no one seemed to have them.

    • Alice August 16, 2017 (2:03 am)

      For other people in a similar situation:

      Ideas 1: Build a simple pinhole projector. Paper: pin: hole–put your back to the Sun and look at the light on the ground. You can make dozens of little eclipses show up on the ground for yourself and make a fun art project out of the patterns that you poke the holes. You can also make a hole with your hands and look at that shadow: you’ll be holding your very own eclipse in your shadow’s hands.

      Idea 2: If you can get out, go to one of the public events like at the High Point Library. They have a reserve of viewing options (some glasses at some of the branches) specifically to share during the eclipse. You won’t get too take them home, but you’ll get to see the event.

    • Abby August 17, 2017 (3:58 pm)

      I have solar eclipse glasses that I am selling for $20 a pair 15 if you buy four more.

      • Pam Linxweiler August 17, 2017 (4:17 pm)

        Hi Abby, I will take a pair. How can I get them from you?

      • Sandy August 17, 2017 (4:59 pm)

        Abbey,

        Any chance of getting 5 pairs. 

  • WS Momma August 15, 2017 (11:32 am)

    Any suggestions for West Seattle parks with the best unobstructed view?  Will have a couple littles in tow.

    • Greg August 15, 2017 (1:41 pm)

      It should be high enough to get a good view from Hamilton Viewpoint, but probably a better place to watch is anywhere along Harbor Ave between the Duwamish Head and Salty’s or Jack Block Park.

    • Alice August 16, 2017 (2:08 am)

      Anywhere with sunlight at 9:10 in the morning. With littles you might try Lincoln Park wading pool (view from the field nearby, play on the playground and in the wading pool when kids get antsy, then go back to viewing. The Spray Park at Highland Park is also very sunny.

      With kids, choose somewhere with multiple attractive play options. They’ll enjoy checking in, but won’t want to watch the whole 2 hours and 31 minutes of the event.

      WSB and I are putting together a list of events as well. High Point will have crafts.

    • AJP August 16, 2017 (9:14 am)

      Westcrest! 

  • Trileigh August 15, 2017 (6:39 pm)

    You can also use binoculars to project the Sun’s image on a piece of paper. (DO NOT EVER look through them at the sun!!) Aim the big end of the binoculars toward the sun, with the smaller eyepiece end pointing at the paper. It takes a little experimentation to get them aligned so you can see the Sun’s image in focus – move the binoculars closer to or further from the paper, and shift the focus dial, until you see a pretty sharp round disc. Then watch the projected image as the moon moves over the Sun; you should be able to see the image change to a crescent, then eventually back to a circle. Cool!

    • Alice August 16, 2017 (2:16 am)

      Yes.

      Please be warned that you can burn the insides of your binoculars this way. That happens when the Sun shines through them too long at an angle. If you’re seeing the image if the whole Sun projected, then your binoculars are probably fine. If they’re pointed away you’re fine. It’s when you see part of the Sun or you don’t see any, but the projection is inside the binocs that you have a problem. (Do you know how I know this???)

      So, don’t leave this kind of setup unattended. Pay attention to the temperature of the outside of your binoculars. Use physical blockades (cardboard cutouts) to stop people from accidentally looking through the lenses, and stop yourself from looking at the Sun while you aim them. 

      Always control the surface onto which you are projecting. This is exactly the magnifying-glass-ant setup, so don’t catch things on fire accidentally.

      Use approved solar filters on the front of your binocs (the Sun side) to limit the amount of light getting through to a reasonable amount for viewing.

  • Diana August 15, 2017 (7:58 pm)

    A bit of a side note for pet owners since I have a canine companion with big brown spaniel eyes and alerts to everything that is strange. The eclipse  may be brief but animals are very sensitive and their eyes can be damaged too!  

    • Alice August 16, 2017 (2:19 am)

      Just like small children, you need to be able to physically intervene if your pets try to look at the Sun. Normally it is bright enough that our instincts and reflexes protect us. During an eclipse we aren’t to override those reflexes and stare. 

      Don’t stare. Look away. Block the viewing small children and animals if you see them staring.

  • Paula August 17, 2017 (12:25 pm)

    My newborn has kept me occupied and I haven’t been able to get any glasses. Does anyone have leads on where to buy them that is in stock (been calling around all morning and no luck!) or have 2 or 4 pairs to sell?

    • Keri Watson August 17, 2017 (10:27 pm)

      Hi Paula, 

      I have 6 pair to sell.  $15 each – same price we paid.  See my post below – we were also busy and didn’t get ours either so we just ordered a 10 pack.  We only need 4. 

      Contact me if you are still interested: joplin3@mac.com

      • Keri August 18, 2017 (3:40 pm)

        Hi again. 

        I am out. They went very quickly, and my apologies that I couldn’t keep up with the emails / get to the blog soon enough today to let you all know. 

  • Reece August 17, 2017 (3:39 pm)

    Pop Up Shop for Eclipse Solar Glasses Today  @

    Golden Pizza Co.

    26220 116th Ave SE, St. 105

    Kent WA 98030

    253-852-9999

    $20/ea        

  • Keri Watson August 17, 2017 (10:25 pm)

    Hi everyone, 

    Regardless of being serious library devotees, we neglected to pick up our glasses for the summer program. 

    So – we purchased a 10 pack of NASA certified eclipse glasses.  We only need 4 pair.  If anyone would like to purchase any of the remaining 6 pair- at the cost of the glasses $15 / pair – please contact me:

    joplin3@mac.com

    Thanks! 

  • Melina Kennedy August 18, 2017 (8:32 am)

    Does anyone have any extra pairs of glasses that they would like to donate to my Preschool and Pre-K students at The Cottage School at Gatewood Elementary?  All of our teachers have been on the hunt so our kids can watch the eclipse, but we’re not having much luck.  Please email me directly if you’d like to help, melinaekennedy@gmail.com.  Thank you!

    • Alice August 19, 2017 (4:58 am)

      Wow.  Back in 2014 I tried to convince three different West Seattle stores to sell eclipse glasses for the partial eclipse. None were willing, even if I handled the inventory risk and didn’t take a profit cut of my own. Now glasses are being sold in parking lot deals….

      I myself have given away about 400+ pairs if I’m counting my inventory correctly…

  • Keri August 18, 2017 (3:46 pm)

     By the way-

    i found this to be pretty cool:

    https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/science-and-health/2017/7/25/16019892/solar-eclipse-2017-interactive-map

  • reece August 18, 2017 (6:22 pm)

    Selling American Paper Optics Solar Eclipse Glasses

    Are they certified?

    Yes. They’re made by American Paper Optics, one of the approved vendors by NASA. You can Google this for yourself.
    https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters
    They’re the first ones on this list here.

    Is the price firm?

    Yes. Given the supply/demand, the price is firm. $20. No quantity discounts.

    Where can I get them?

    Pop Up Shop

    Starbucks, Renton, next to Fred Meyer’s
    Sitting outside table on the right next to entrance.
    365 Renton Center Way SW, Renton
    Here about until 8PM.

  • Sonny August 19, 2017 (2:21 am)

    Hello eclipse chasers! Our second delivery for today now won’t arrive until tomorrow morning so I guess we’re delaying departure until then. There was a big line today and were so surprised we sold out in 30 min!

    To be fair to everyone we’re still only charging $10 cash each, first come first served. With that in mind, talk with your family, friends, and neighbors to make sure you are going to get enough since some of your people won’t be able to get there themselves. We’re not limiting number of glasses, buying a bunch for others is great, but please don’t buy to resell at a crazy price. Be there at 930 because they will go fast and this is the absolute last of the eclipse glasses we will get! 

    If they arrive on time we plan on selling them in the park across the street from the Alaska Junction Qfc at 42nd SW &SW Alaska at 930 am Saturday. Line starts at the bottom of the ramp, up towards the sidewalk and up the hill. Please be kind to each other and let pedestrians by on the sidewalk. 

    Many thanks to the West Seattle Blog and the contributions of its great community! Whether you’re traveling or staying in beautiful Seattle have a great eclipse experience! Thank you all so much! 

  • Stephanie August 19, 2017 (8:05 am)

    Looking for 3-4 pair of eclipse glasses. Anyone have any extra to sell? I see Sonny will have them but won’t have a vehicle at that time. 

    Thanks :) 

  • chris August 20, 2017 (2:43 pm)

    Please contact via email or cell phone 215-801-8274 if you have any pairs available to sell or know of any locations that will be selling today or tomorrow.

    Thanks!

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