A total solar eclipse will be seen pass along the United States on Monday. The event has generated a lot of excitement, and people from around the world have even traveled to the U.S. to get a glimpse of the phenomenon.

Solar eclipses are relatively common, as they occur every 18 months or so. However, this is the first time in decades that a total solar eclipse will be seen in continental U.S. –hence its nickname, the Great American Solar Eclipse—so if you wondered why this eclipse is so important, that’s why.

Image credit: National Geographic
Image credit: National Geographic

Although the total solar eclipse will only be seen in the path of totality –a 70-mile wide path that goes from the coast of Oregon to the coast of South Carolina—anyone elsewhere in the country can still view a partial solar eclipse.

The Moon will cover the Sun disc on Monday

A solar eclipse is the alignment of Earth, the Sun, and the Moon. During a total solar eclipse, it appears as if the Moon completely covers the Sun, temporarily making everything go dark. The last time a total solar eclipse was seen in the U.S. from coast to coast was 99 years ago.

The total solar eclipse will be best seen in the path of totality, which includes towns and cities in states like Oregon, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, and South Carolina. You can still get a good view of the eclipse outside the path of totality. In fact, the eclipse will also be seen in some parts of Africa, Europe, and north of South America.

Astronomers estimate the eclipse will begin in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at 11:46 a.m. ET, and it will be seen on the coast of Oregon around 12:05 p.m. ET. The eclipse will move at 1,500 miles per hour until it is no longer seen at the coast of South Carolina around 4:06 p.m. ET.

Trajectory of the Great American Eclipse. Image Credit: Great American Eclipse
The trajectory of the Great American Eclipse. Image Credit: Great American Eclipse

Get your solar filter sunglasses to enjoy the Great American Solar Eclipse

It’s of absolute importance that you wear eclipse glasses when viewing the phenomenon on Monday. Astronomers, scientists, and doctors all have stressed the need to wear protection when watching the solar eclipse, as the naked eye is not suited to look straight at the Sun. And not just in solar eclipses, you should never look directly at the Sun.

Although the eclipse is only one day away, you can still pick up a pair of NASA-approved eclipse glasses. The American Astronomical Society has also shared a list of several lenses approved to view the eclipse. The lenses are known as “solar filter sunglasses, ” and they block more than 99.99 percent of sunlight, ultraviolet rays, and infrared radiation.

Every time an eclipse occurs, some people overlook these safety warnings, and they look straight at the sun with the naked eye. Keep in mind that if you do that, you may suffer from solar retinopathy –or burning of the eye’s retina—or from temporary blindness. People who have seen the sun with the naked eye often end up with a blind spot, which sometimes is untreatable.

“Some damage occurs pretty quickly, but a lot of damage can take hours to days to really come to bear,” Dr. Brandon Lujan, an assistant professor of Ophthalmology, told KPTV. “Unfortunately there’s not a treatment for it, so once that damage is done you have to wait and hopefully things improve and your body can heal some, but a lot of damage can be permanent.”

So don’t take any unnecessary chances and pick up a couple of solar filter sunglasses. Some libraries around the country will also hand out the glasses for free, so check with your local school, library, or astronomy society. The only time when it’s safe to look at the Sun is during the total solar eclipse when the Moon covers the disc of the sun. Only then –if you’re in the path of totality—you can take off your glasses and glance at the phenomenon.

Source: Newsweek