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Shoot for the Stars: Your Solar Eclipse Guide

solar eclipse

This Monday, August 21, a total solar eclipse will travel across the entire United States for the first time since 1918. Astronomically, it’s one of the biggest phenomena of the decade. And for towns stretching from the west coast of Oregon to the east of South Carolina, it’s also turning up to be one of their greatest tourism events ever.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Experiencing this Once-in-a-lifetime Celestial Event.

Oregonians and visitors from around the world can witness an event like no other: a total solar eclipse. This extraordinary sight occurs when the moon crosses in front of the sun, blocking its light and briefly turning the day into night. Much of Oregon is on the “path of totality,” a close strip where the total eclipse can be seen.

Towns over Oregon, Washington, and Nevada are gearing up for a massive influx of visitors eager to witness this cosmic wonder. Wherever you live in the United States, you’ll be able to see what some are calling the great American eclipse. Portland will witness a partial solar eclipse, with the sun 99% obscured by the moon. To experience a full 100% obscuration, you’ll need to travel 25 miles (40 km) or more south of downtown Portland. Here’s what you’ll need to remember to plan the greatest eclipse experience possible (or to avoid an injury altogether.)

Plan Ahead

State authorities expect approximately 1 million people will descend upon destinations within the eclipse’s path, creating lots of traffic. Don’t come without a plan, as getting accommodation at the last minute will be close to impossible. The Oregon Department of Transportation is stopping most construction work around the time of the eclipse to relieve road congestion. Even so, you should still expect a lot of traffic. Try to avoid traveling on the day of the eclipse, when roads will surely be busiest.

Protect Your Eyes

Never try looking directly at the sun, even during the eclipse. Other than for a very brief moment when the moon fully covers the sun, you’ll need to wear protective eyewear. Your sunglasses or camera lens won’t cut it! The only safe way to look directly at the partially eclipsed sun is by the safety glasses, known as eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers. Refer to the American Astronomical Society (AAS) for Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page for a list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers.

Do’s and Don’t’s in using the Eclipse Glasses

  • Always examine your solar filter before use; if damaged or scratched, discard it. Read and follow the instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
  • Always supervise the children while using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your solar viewer or eclipse glasses before looking up at the bright sun. After watching the sun, turn away and remove your filter, do not remove it while watching the sun.
  • Never try looking at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered telescope, camera, binoculars, or other optical devices.
  • Likewise, never try looking at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered telescope, camera, binoculars, or other optical devices while using the eclipse glasses – the intense solar rays will destroy the filter and enter your eye(s), causing severe injury.
  • Ask expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a telescope, a camera, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • If you are inside the path of totality, remove your solar filter ONLY when the moon fully covers the sun, and it suddenly gets quite dark.
  • Outside the path of totality, you must ALWAYS use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.
  • For people who wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.

When the cosmos do something this cool that only happens once every 375 years, you’ll want to make the occasion count! People who have seen a solar eclipse say you’ll forever be changed. Catch this one or be prepared to wait a long, long time.

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