Solar Eclipse Safety Tips
By Senior Airman Robert J. Volio, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 15, 2017
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
A total solar eclipse that will be visible across North America from coast to coast for the first time in 38 years is slated to occur, Aug. 21.
The rare phenomenon when the sun, moon and Earth perfectly align is predicted to be the most viewed eclipse ever. As of this writing, the best viewing spots for base residents may be south toward Santa Barbara.
The 30th Medical Group provided some background information and safety tips for Team V members. Here are five things for Airmen and families to know for a safe viewing experience:
The path of “totality” – when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s face – will stretch from Salem, Oregon, starting at 10:16 a.m. and reach Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m. This means Mountain Home, F.E. Warren, Offutt, Scott, Arnold, Shaw, and Charleston Air Force Bases will briefly experience a near 100 percent eclipse, while the rest of the United States will see at least 70 to 90 percent to include Vandenberg. The start of the eclipse for this area will begin at 9:03 a.m., with maximum obstruction at 10:17 a.m., and ending at 11:39 a.m.
Looking directly at the solar eclipse without proper eye protection is unsafe and can cause serious, permanent eye damage. The lone exception is during the brief total phase of the eclipse, which will last under three minutes and only within the 70-mile wide band of totality. Outside of that window, there will be harmful rays for the duration of the celestial event.
Homemade filters and standard sunglasses – even dark or polarized ones – are not sufficient to prevent eye damage. This also goes for unfiltered cameras, telescopes, binoculars, and other optical devices. The only safe way to directly view the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters (“eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers) that are “CE” certified and meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard. StarNet Libraries has distributed more than two million “eclipse glasses” to more than 4,800 library locations across the U.S. According to Tech. Sgt. Brittney Vaughn, 30th MDG Optometry Services NCOIC, if Team V members are willing to make a drive, the Atascadero Library has glasses to give out free of charge. They can be reached via phone at 805-461-6161, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, they can be purchased at local stores or online if available.
Indirect viewing techniques are a safe and fun alternative. Pinhole projectors using your hands, cereal boxes, or other projection techniques are popular ways to safely observe a solar eclipse. Look online for instructions on how to make a simple projector. For the safest viewing experience, NASA will host a livestream “Eclipse Megacast” with exclusive multi-platform coverage across the path of totality.
For more information and resources to safely enjoy the rare solar eclipse, contact Tech. Sgt. Vaughn at 805-606-7962. NASA also has a safety section at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov. Remember, NEVER look directly at the sun with the naked eye except during the brief total phase. If you experience problems with your eyes or vision following the eclipse, be sure to check in with the optometry clinic.