Solar annular eclipse: viewing advice


Ashley Sarmanto, 17, of Redding, Calif., gets some glasses to watch the solar eclipse Wednesday, May 15, 2012, from Whiskeytown National Recreation Area volunteer Dolores Fremter at the park's visitors center in California. (Andreas Fuhrmann/AP)

(Note: for those on the East Coast in the dark during the eclipse, you can watch it care-free live via the Slooh Space Camera broadcasting from Japan, California, Utah, and New Mexico.)

Here are some viewing tips for the solar annular eclipse:

* Do not look at the eclipse with the naked eye or with a camera or telescope without a solar filter. Doing so could cause irreversible eye damage. NASA warns: the concern over improper viewing of the Sun during an eclipse is for the development of “eclipse blindness” or retinal burns.

* For safe viewing with your eyes, obtain special solar eclipse sunglasses (ordinary sunglasses will not protect you) or create your own eclipse viewing device.

The Exploratorium recommends making your own pinhole projector, which requires little effort. The following are its directions for quick assembly:

Get two pieces of cardboard--one piece colored white to project onto. Cut a square in one cardboard, then tape a piece of foil over the square. Now make a pinhole in the middle of the foil.

With the sun behind you, hold the pinhole cardboard as far from the white cardboard as you can. Remember, the farther you are from the screen, the bigger your image.

NewsStaar advises:

Practice viewing the sun with the pinhole projector prior to the eclipse to get the hang of it, and even experiment with different hole sizes to find the size that works best. If done correctly, you may even see some sun spots during your practice sessions.

* For photographing the eclipse directly, you need a solar filter for your camera.: Space.com recommends:

Use a No. 14 welder’s glass filter, or purchase special solar filters from companies such as Thousand Oaks, Kendrick Astro Instruments, or Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, and fit them securely in front of your equipment.

Mr. Eclipse.com offers some excellent additional photography tips.

* Viewing or photographing the eclipse indirectly - via the ground - is possible without eye protection or filters. NASA explains:

During an annular eclipse, sunbeams turn into little rings of light. The best place to see this is on the sun-dappled ground beneath a leafy tree. Hundreds of circular shadows can be found there.

You can also make a handy solar projector by criss-crossing your fingers waffle-style. Rays of light beaming through the gaps will have the same shape as the eclipsed sun.

NASA features an image of the annular eclipse from January 15, 2000 that exhibits the ring of fire sneaking through tree foliage and multiplying on the turf below.

“...many crossed leaves created gaps that acted like pinhole cameras, scattering recognizable eclipse images across the white sands of a tropical garden near the beach,” reads its description.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.

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