Solar Eclipse, How to see it, Where to share it

The best and easiest ways to view the solar eclipse without having to create something, and the neatest places to share your pictures when you’re done.

Solar eclipse rendering by River Network

Where will you be during the solar eclipse? Hopefully you’ll get a chance to go outside during that time, but how will you see it? We can’t look directly up at it, and not everyone has the fancy glasses or the high-tech equipment needed for optimum viewing pleasure at their disposal. We need easy, safe, realistic methods for this experience. I’m sure you’ve all seen the homemade “contraptions” on Facebook that are supposed to help you watch the eclipse without damaging your retinas. In my opinion, they don’t work. I’m not saying you’ll suffer an eye injury; I’m saying you won’t be able to successfully enjoy the spectacle. Maybe they’ll work for you, though. Here’s my personal experience with those particular devices and my recommendations on what to do instead.

There was a total, coast-to-coast solar eclipse when I was in high school (a long time ago), and we all (the students) built “eclipse watchers” of various forms – all of which are just like the ones being suggested in videos today. In preparation for the event – which was to take place during school hours – we fashioned our ideal viewing apparatuses using shoe boxes, cereal boxes, index cards, etc., and then we headed outside. But our time and materials were wasted, because when we went outside to use them – we saw nothing. We couldn’t make the blasted, pieces of junk work properly! The closest we came to any sort of view was when one girl managed to produce a faint, tiny, semi-circle shadow of a partially hidden sun on an index card. We did our best to “oh and ah” at the pathetic image, but we weren’t impressed. Our science teachers weren’t even able to help us out.

It wasn’t until we hopelessly and forlornly made our way back to the school building, disappointed, giving up while the eclipse was still under way, when a fellow classmate stopped at a puddle on the ground and pointed. It had rained earlier that day, and there were several puddles on the concrete by the school’s entrance. The amazing part about them was, the entire sky was perfectly reflected in the puddles – INCLUDING THE ECLIPSE! We all stood there shouting in excitement that we not only could see the eclipse, but could see it perfectly!!! THIS was so. much. better.

Now, several experts may warn against viewing the solar eclipse via reflection in water, and I agree with that to some extent. To relive the above experience I had in high school, I had an old planter filled with water and then viewed the sky in the reflection. The detail of the current cloud cover and of the nearby oak tree confirmed my memory of how detailed this image would be.

Yes, the water is dirty, but you can easily see the clouds and the tree. It’s not as vibrant as it would be if you looked directly at them, however. That fact, plus the fact that part, most, or all of the sun will be hidden behind the moon during the eclipse, is why I still don’t think using a watery reflection is such a bad idea. After all, I did it before and came out unscathed. And it was at peak eclipse, too, which helps.

But be cautious. When I looked at the noon-day, non-eclipsing sun on the surface of the water during this experiment, it was still too bright to behold! Do not look at the sun in the reflection until it has eclipsed! And when it does, sunglasses would be a good idea.

Still not convinced? That’s okay. Better safe than sorry, right? Here are a list of good ideas on how to view a solar eclipse without having to create complicated devices. (It’s an article from last year’s eclipse in the UK, but it’s still relevant.) One of them is my back-up plan if the sun-in-a-bucket is still too bright for me. I have my binoculars ready.

No, I’m not going to look at the sun through them. (Read the linked “list of good ideas” above for how to use binoculars for a solar eclipse.) The binoculars are used to shoot the image in reverse onto a smooth, flat surface.

But if you’re like me, and you plan on using water to reflect the eclipse, here are some more tips for optimum visibility:

  • A body of water nearby will work, but only if it’s a still body. Flowing rivers and crashing waves aren’t going to show a clear reflection.
  • Swimming pools work well, especially if the interior is dark rather than light. It also needs to be still, so it can’t be a busy pool. The preference would be: no one in the pool!
  • Fill up a dark, shallow container with water, and place it outside. The shallower the container the less likely it will shake and distort the image.
  • Look for puddles already on the ground or create your own on dark-ish concrete.
  • Again, still wear your sunglasses.
  • It’s safest not to look at the reflection directly, either. We live in the technology age of cell phones. Try to take an angled selfie of the reflection (without you in it), and look at your screen with your peripheral vision only. So basically, the reflection is behind you, and you’re taking a selfie over your shoulder.

Wherever you are and however you do it, when you see the eclipse, take a picture! Share it on TheNatureFan’s Facebook page, on your own Instagram, and especially on this really neat crowd-sourced map created by River Network specifically for the solar eclipse. Make sure you use the hashtag #Eclipse2017. If you’re posting to the map, also use the hashtag #WatersInTheDarkness. I’ll be posting my pics here and on the map as well as on my Instagram and Twitter accounts. I’m particularly excited to see the crowd-sourced map after everyone across the country has uploaded! I hope we all have clear skies for this… :/

Which brings me to my last point: What if it rains or is too cloudy? This is a very real possibility, albeit a sad one. But if that happens, we can live stream the solar eclipse here. And if you’re still excited about it, take a picture of your screen with the live feed on it. Why not?

Be safe, and happy eclipse watching!

 

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