This is the gear you need to view the upcoming solar eclipse
This is the gear you need to view the upcoming solar eclipse These solar viewers give 2x magnification and protection from the sun during the partial eclipse. (Celestron/NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams)
This is the gear you need to view the upcoming solar eclipse
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On August 21, North America will experience the first total solar eclipse visible across the continent in nearly a century. It may seem illogical. But this period of semi-darkness is an important time to practice sun safety.

That's because while during an eclipse, you won't want to tear your eyes away from the show. But staring directly at the sun can lead to solar retinopathy. That's a condition where light floods the eye's retina. In 1999, 45 patients visited an eye clinic in Leicester, England, after viewing a solar eclipse without proper eyewear. About half of the patients suffered from eye pain. The others reported impaired vision. These eclipse watchers were not totally blinded. But several had long-term damage.

The United States hasn't experienced a total eclipse since 1979. That one only passed over a small swath of the Northwest. This year, in contrast more than 500 million people in North America will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. Those within a 70-mile wide path between Oregon and South Carolina will witness a total eclipse.

A partial eclipse occurs when the moon blocks part of the sun from view. A total eclipse, in contrast, is when the moon completely blocks the sun. "Totality" is the part of the total eclipse when the sun is completely covered. It lasts only around two minutes.

To view the solar eclipse, you'll need proper equipment. It may seem odd to don protection in the semi-darkness of a partial eclipse, but staring at the sun can cause retinal injury. The only time it's safe to look at the sun without protection is during totality. Keep your equipment on hand. Put it back on when the sun starts to reappear.

Eclipse glasses and handheld viewers

Eclipse glasses look like hybrids of 3-D movie glasses and sunglasses. These glasses have the added protection of a solar filter. Whereas sunglasses only block UV rays, eclipse glasses also cut off visible light.

If you're a casual observer or part of a large group, you'll like these glasses - low prices and bulk packaging. You can buy a pack of five paper glasses from Rainbow Symphony for around $12. If you want a sturdier option, try these plastic glasses from American Paper Optics. And feel free to go for style: TSE17 has a $5.05 stars-and-stripes five-pack. American Paper Optics features everything from Bill Nye glasses to astronaut-themed frames.

Looking for something between basic glasses and high-tech binoculars? Check out this handheld viewer from Celestron. For $9.95, you'll receive two viewers with 2x magnification capabilities and a pocket eclipse guide.

Binoculars and telescopes

Binoculars and telescopes are pricier than eclipse glasses and handheld viewers but can be worth the investment. They feature a higher magnification.  But higher magnification results in a shakier image. As power increases, the equipment becomes more sensitive to its holder's small hand movements.

Binoculars are rated with two numbers. The first number is the magnification. The second is the aperture. That's the diameter of the front lens, measured in millimeters. If you're buying a pair of binoculars and plan to use them for other astronomy viewing, the bigger the aperture, the better. But bigger lenses also mean heavier equipment.

The following options offer a range of viewing strengths. Celestron's EclipSmart binoculars feature non-removable solar filters, so you'll only be able to use them for solar viewing. A 10x25 pair (10x magnification and 25mm aperture) costs around $35, while a 10x42 pair costs just about twice as much. A cheaper option is Lunt's mini SUNocular. A 6x30 pair costs $29.95.

If you prefer binoculars with removable solar filters, Meade has a $69.99 10x50 pair. They work for both solar viewing and nighttime stargazing. Once you remove the solar filters, the binoculars will operate like a normal pair.

Telescopes offer some of the best eclipse views, but you'll pay more for added detail if you want an advanced model. A basic lightweight option is the Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 70mm telescope. It costs $59.99. It can be used during both the day and night. A more advanced option is the $99.95 Celestron EclipSmart telescope. It offers 18x magnification, 50mm aperture and non-removable solar filters.

Another choice is the Meade EclipseView telescope. The cheapest model is a $79.99 82mm reflecting telescope designed for on-the-go use. A sturdier long-term bet is the 76mm reflecting telescope, which costs $129.99. Both models feature removable solar filters and are suitable for solar and nighttime use.

Add-on solar filters

Another category of eclipse viewing gear is add-on filters. These can be attached to binoculars, telescopes and cameras not originally designed for solar viewing and are mainly used by experienced observers. Similarly to eclipse-specific gear, add-on filters prevent retinal damage.

Filters are typically made of metal on glass (sturdy but most expensive), aluminized polyester film (also known as Mylar) or black polymer (also used in eclipse glasses). Rainbow Symphony sells black polymer and silver Mylar filters starting at $19.95. Thousand Oaks Optical and Orion offer higher-end filters ranging in price from $22 to $150-plus.

Pinhole projectors

If you want to view the eclipse without spending money on special equipment, you're in luck. Stand with your back to the sun. Use your hands, a hole-punched index card or even a patch of leaves to create a tiny opening. As sunlight flows through the empty space, an image of the sun will project onto a nearby surface. For more detailed instructions, visit the American Astronomical Society's pinhole projection page.

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What makes this year's eclipse so special?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • oliviaab-cot
    8/16/2017 - 09:19 a.m.

    This year's eclipse is very special. The text states, "The United States hasn't experienced a total eclipse since 1979." This shows that we have not had a total eclipse in nearly a century.

  • madysonw-cel
    8/17/2017 - 12:29 p.m.

    This article is interesting.It tells you all about the possible ways for you to view the eclipse and even includes the price of each item it talks about. It also does a good job of describing what an eclipse is and tells you the dangers of looking at it without protection.

  • patrickm-cot
    8/21/2017 - 09:45 a.m.

    The text states that this Solar Eclipse is so special is, one that is going to happen over 38 years.The last Solar Eclipse to occur happened in the 1970's so this is a really important event.

  • damianj-cot
    8/22/2017 - 02:32 p.m.

    This year´s eclipse was special. The text states that we have not seen a solar eclipse since 1979. The solar eclipse had a rare occurance because we have not seen one in 38 years. The evidence proves that the eclipse was special in the year 2017.

  • joshuaf-jen
    8/23/2017 - 01:38 p.m.

    This year's eclipse was special because it was the only full eclipse since 1979. That's 38 years. I'm not even that old! There were places that got a cool full eclipse, like Oregon. Here in California, we had a partial eclipse.

  • nevaehb-jen
    8/23/2017 - 02:28 p.m.

    I think that the eclipse is so special because the United States had not seen a solar eclipse since 1979. A partial eclipse is when the moon blocks part of the sun. A total eclipse is when the moon completely blocks the sun.

  • kiannar-cel
    8/24/2017 - 12:02 p.m.

    The solar eclipse is awesome event that occurs every other couple of years. The solar eclipse is also pretty dangerous because it can give a person long term damage to their eyes. I,personally, do not trust or take in any part of using the eclipse glasses. I value my eyes more than valuing to look at the moon go over the sun.

  • serenityl-jen
    8/24/2017 - 02:23 p.m.

    What makes the eclipse special is that it only comes once in a great while. People think that it is cool, even if you have never seen it, like me. Some people think that is so cool that they traveled just to see the eclipse. This is my opinion, but some people can have different opinions.

  • brycew-orv
    8/30/2017 - 05:05 p.m.

    It makes it special because it happens every 100 years I think so it special every time

  • ShearerA-dec
    10/05/2018 - 12:25 p.m.

    That was interesting space space spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace!

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