Research to Prevent Blindness

FAQs: Aug. 21 Solar Eclipse

Research to Prevent Blindness has compiled information about the upcoming solar eclipse from a number of reputable sources. We wish you a happy and safe eclipse viewing! 

Q: What is a solar eclipse?

A: A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth. The moon’s shadow falls over the earth, leading to a brief period of darkness or reduced sunlight.

Here’s a handy diagram from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):

Q: When and where will it occur?

A: On August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will occur over North America. According to NASA, a total solar eclipse (meaning the moon will completely block the sun) will first be visible on land in Salem, Oregon, and will sweep across the country in a path that ends in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sunlight peeks through the low points on the moon’s jagged edge during the 2002 total solar eclipse, creating a phenomenon known as Baily’s Beads.


Photo credit: Arne Danielson via NASA

Click on your location on NASA’s interactive map to find out exactly when the eclipse will be visible in your area and what percentage of sun coverage you can expect.All areas of the country will experience the eclipse, whether total or not. Areas that are outside the so-called “path of totality” will still experience partial coverage of the sun by the moon (called a partial eclipse). For instance, here in New York, where RPB is based, we will have about 70% coverage of the sun.

Q: Can I look at the eclipse when it’s happening?

A: Yes, IF you wear the correct eye protection. Regular sunglasses and camera lenses will not offer adequate protection from damaging UV rays should you choose to view the eclipse. You must wear special, ISO-certified “eclipse glasses” to protect your vision and prevent damage to the retina. Inexpensive eclipse glasses can be purchased for about $2 a pair. Learn about these glasses and who makes them here

The American Astronomical Society recommends that you look for the ISO logo and a statement of ISO 12312-2 compliance to be sure your eclipse glasses will provide adequate protection.

Q: I am visually impaired. Is there a way to experience the eclipse?

A: Yes! The Eclipse Soundscapes Project allows you to access “a multisensory experience of this exciting celestial event.” The project, from NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium, will include audio descriptions of the eclipse in real time, recordings of the changing environmental sounds during the eclipse, and an interactive “rumble map” app that will allow users to visualize the eclipse through touch.

Q: I have more questions! Where can I learn more?

A: For more information, visit NASA’s excellent eclipse 2017 website.



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